Letters of Mass Construction

Plan X

I have been thinking about how to write this blog for a few days. I am still not completely satisfied with how my brain is processing all the conflicting thoughts. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows what a huge fan of Amanda Palmer I am. I have written some of my favorite blogs writing about Amanda. I think it is why I have had such a hard time processing how I was going to write this. I respect her a lot.

This time, however, I think I have to disagree with her. She has been very active on Twitter the last week spreading the message of, “fuck plan B!” The message being pursue your goal relentlessly. Having a back up plan is to admit failure before even starting. It suggests that if you are relentless, success will surely follow in its wake. Having a plan B is self sabotage (and any number of other things).

I think this is a naive and dangerous message. It also is a very easy message to spread when plan B might not leave you homeless and starving. When you yourself didn’t grow up in poverty. As a teacher I spend everyday of every year encouraging my students to find their passions and follow their dreams.

I also encourage them to be hard workers. To make goals and plans. How to adapt to change and the inevitable failure which occurs in life. I try to show them a world outside the little box of poverty and failure which surrounds them. The high school graduation in my town is abysmal. Less than one in four head off to college. 85% percent of my school is on free and reduced lunch. Economically, my town is screwed.

Many of my students have parents who work in multiple jobs that are clearly not their plan A. 40, 50, 60 hours a week picking crops. Working at McDonalds. Greeting at Wal-Mart. They are my heroes. They do these jobs on the chance that their kids can have it better. To put food on the table and a roof over their children’s heads.

I want my students to grow up and be whatever they want. I tell them to strive and work for their dreams. I want them to have lots of dreams. I also want their life to be happy and meaningful. I want them to have less worry and heart ache than many of their parents. This is where teaching them to adapt is so important. Failure is a part of life. They need to know how to learn, recover, and improve when failure occurs.

I speak with a certain amount of authority on this issue. I have known I wanted to be a writer since I was in third grade. I also know what it is like to eat cheese sandwiches for lunch everyday because government cheese was the only kind of lunch we could afford. I know what being hungry feels like. I know what bad medical care and bad living conditions feel like. I have lived in an apartment complex where drugs were all around and an occasional police occupation didn’t seem weird. I know poverty.

I know what it feels like being told by teachers I will never reach my elusive dream. There were no thoughts of college when I was a child. Most days I was trying to figure out a way to stay sane. I had a plan A. It was to go to LA and write movies that my best friend Curt would direct. Then Curt died. To say my plan A blew up into a big pile of flaming dog shit would be an understatement.

I went to college and I worked 40 plus hours a week because there was no money from my family to help me. I was out on my own at 18. I have never not worked. I never stopped wanting to be a writer. I also had no desire to starve or live on the street. Poverty was not an option I was willing to engage in. Writing never stopped being the fire which drove me.

I went on to plan B, C, D…I think I might be on plan X now. I am still writing. I work all day and I write all night. I am always writing (just ask my wife). I make no excuses for having more than one plan. The relentless pursuit of my plan A would have meant I would not have met my wife. It would have meant I would not be a teacher.

This is a crazy thought to me. The only thing which fills me with as much passion as writing is teaching. I know this will sound egotistical but I know I have changed lives. Lots of lives. I have made a difference. I am a damn fine teacher. Teaching was probably my plan G and I happen to think if I had not found my way into it a whole lot of children’s lives would have been the worst for it. It isn’t that I have ever given up on my passion of writing. I simply have more than one passion and I multi-task well.

It’s easy to say “fuck plan B!” I get the sentiment but it is not the reality of the world in my opinion. It is certainly not the reality of my students. When the best meal of the day is the one you have at school than you had better start planning for your future. You had better have a clear understanding of work. I want the world for my students and I encourage them to chase their dreams. Happiness has many paths and there is no one road to finding it.

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One Response to “Plan X”

  1. merri says:

    True, never know what life’s gonna bring.. your plan whatever seems to be going great. 🙂

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