I was on a short flight in a small loud plane - basically a greyhound bus with wings - and began talking to the girl sitting next to me. The conversation started when she apologized for taking up too much space. She was a bigger girl, so her bum didn't quite fit in the small seat. Luckily, I don't take up much room, so we fit together into the double seat, and I told her that it is absolutely not a problem and there is no need to apologize... this annoys me, as I have never sat beside a man who felt the need to apologize for taking up some of the space that the person who made the seats designated as mine... but it is not relevant to the rest of this post. Also not relevant to the rest of this post, why do flight attendants always wear high heels? It must be required or something. Flight attendants (mostly female) are on their feet most of the flight for as many as 8 flights per day, often through turbulence, in high heeled shoes while the (mostly male) captains get to sit down in loafers.
Anyway, the girl sitting next to me told me that she was about to start university in a couple weeks. She told me, in detail, about how she was taking biomolecular (or was it biomedical?) engineering, and how the bachelor's degree is 4 years, then a double master's degree (or something of that sort) for another 4 years, and then another 4 years for her PhD. She went on to talk about exactly what it was she was going to do for the rest of her life. She had just graduated from high school and was on the flight with her parents, returning from one last vacation before she moves away for university. She then turned to her ipod(or some other similar contraption- I am technologically challenged) and began to watch what appeared to be a Harry Potter movie.
I looked out the small window at the grey clouds scattered underneath me and the city lights glowing in the distance, and wondered what I was doing 12 years ago... trying to think about anything other than how guilty I felt about the environmental impact of my unnecessary air travel. I struggled to place my exact age. To be fair, it was almost midnight, and I was returning home from a union conference which involves living at a hotel in a strange city, and there were a lot things happening for me mentally and emotionally... simple thoughts were difficult to come up with and math can be nearly impossible.
All of a sudden it came to me. Twelve years ago, give or take a week or two, I spent my first night on the streets; I was homeless. Talk about a defining point in one's life. Twelve years ago (before homelessness) I could have told you with that same level of certainty that I was going to be a lawyer. I was never going to have kids. I was going to travel a lot. I was politically conservative and quite anti-feminist. I was also described as "boy crazy" by my mother. I had a list surprisingly similar to that girl on the plane, but it fell apart exactly 12 years ago.
Twelve years ago, if you had told me that I would be a single parent with two young children, a graduate student in sociology, and working with various social justice movements, I would have thought you were crazy. I would never have believed that I would later identify as a queer Marxist Feminist.
Now, if you ask me what I am going to be doing in 12 years, I wouldn't be able to come up with a firm answer. I could tell you a variety of things that are quite possibly what I might be doing in 12 years (teaching, research, writing, union work, social activism, and the list could go on). But I no longer have a plan; I don't know what city I will be in, I don't know what type of relationship I expect to be in (if any). I have goals, but no plans, and I think that is a good thing.