by David Rutherford

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Where do you see yourself in five years time?
It was a question raised by a colleague of mine during an interview we were conducting with a potential new recruit. He answered it well, showing enough ambition for us to want him yet not enough to feel threatened by him. None of us around that table believed a word he said least of all him, but he'd played the game correctly and that was basically all that was required. He wasn't really telling us where he wanted to be in 5 years time, he was telling us where he wanted to be next week - basically in a job.

Being a person who absolves himself of such questions, this whole episode got me thinking about goals & game plans. 5 years ago I wouldn't have imagined I'd be where I am in life now, nor would I have been able to plot my course here - even with the benefit of hindsight I can only just make out my route. My lack of planning has led to an interesting life as everyday has been a surprise and every decision to some extent has had a real repercussion. Perhaps because my route has been unplanned I lack a sense of achievement or should I say a sense of arrival or completion. At times I feel like a real life Forrest Gump, bumbling in the main happily through life but not quite getting it.

To give you an example, as a twelve year old, I was quietly minding my own business one morning when the athletics coach came bursting into the common room and told me that I was going to be the school entrant for the long jump at some regional finals. (Our long-jump expert having come down with Chicken-pox that morning and the coach requiring a warm body to enter the competition merely to secure a point for the team - as far as I was concerned it was a day out).Before I knew it I was kited out and put on the team bus and off we trundled. Anyway cutting to the chase, my first five jumps merely confirmed that I was entirely correct in not pursuing an athletics career but at least I had proved to be a team player and a point for coming last was in the bag. Jump six was coming up and I was desperate to make a call of nature, I was just about to head off when I heard my name called. I reacted immediately, I ran, I jumped and then without so much as a glance over the shoulder carried on, now desperate for relief that only the forest ahead could provide. By the time I returned to the Long-jump pit the event was over and all had dispersed, I returned to the team meeting point and confirmed I'd got the point I'd be brought along for. Ten minutes later the tannoy announced the results of the top three in reverse order, I can't say I paid particular interest to the announcement until I heard, 'First and with a new Championship record', "someone's done well I thought" - then remarkably I heard my School's name read out. Stunned and elated absolutely, a sense of completion from hours spent practicing - no. At nine o'clock that morning Long-jump had never crossed my mind, by 4 o'clock, I was a winner, record holder and favourite for the national championships to be held at Iffley road, Oxford two weeks later - go figure. Come Oxford though normal service was resumed.

Wonderful yet bizarre almost unfathomable incidents like that litter my life that no amount of planning for could achieve. If I'd practiced for two years I wouldn't have been able to jump as far as I did that day, yet somehow quite inexplicably I did. I could bore you with any amount of bizarre stories, ranging from playing rugby at Twickenham. to being engaged in conversation with Darryl Hannah at Seville airport, to finding myself in a room of forty household names at the 1998 World Cup final in Paris. None of which would figure in a five year plan, yet all events that have occurred. In fact I would go as far as saying that had I had a plan it would have almost certainly have discounted any of those things from happening. Life is something that happens to me, this is not to be confused with or to be accused of being a victim, because I have deliberately cast myself as a cork on the sea, choosing to take life as it comes. I could plan for and plot a safer course but that would be akin to making boating the only form of sailing.

5 year plans to my mind are the equivalent of chugging from point A to point B, all that has been achieved is getting where you planned to go or even worse not getting where you planned to go. When surely the point of life is not mastering a chosen route, but mastering yourself thereby gaining the ability to cope with and master any route. We already have our end destination marked out - death and that will occur when it occurs, irrespective of game plans and five year goals. In the meantime I am leaving my options open, letting fate take its course, allowing for the possibility of all strange occurrences to happen and will face each and everyone to the best of my ability. Many have had and no doubt will have 5 year plans and when they go to their graves , they will be able to say I did what I planned to do - but they'll never know what they could have done had they left themselves open to greet the unexpected. For me as Robert Frost wrote, I prefer to take the ' Road less travelled'

© David Rutherford 10.2000
Now based in London - writing and managing web sites about the Euro.

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