Interviewers often ask job candidates, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" If I were really honest, I'd say, "I don't know." But I have thought a lot about where and who I don't want to be. Here are a few examples:
1. I don't want to be the type of person who keeps making excuses. One thing that bothers me about some undergrads (though not all of them are like this) is their refusal to take responsibility for their own actions. If they get a bad grade, they blame everyone else (particularly me) but themselves. They'll say stuff like, "I know I missed ten classes, but I think it's unfair that you expect us to show up every day." (I wish I could be there to hear them say stuff like that to their future employers.) Or they might say something like, "I can't afford to buy all the books for this class because I just got a new iPhone. And besides, I can just read Cliffsnotes."
It bothers me that some students won't admit that they didn't do what they were supposed to do, or that they didn't produce the best work that they could have produced. They blame me or make a bunch of excuses instead.
But then I realized that I sometimes made excuses too. I blamed the fact that I wasn't making as much progress on my dissertation as I should have on the fact that teaching and my website job took up so much time. It was true that I didn't have as much free time as I would have liked, but I also procrastinated a lot. Mindless Internet surfing is my worst habit.
More than once I'll find myself staring at my laptop for hours at a time, watching Youtube videos of dogs dancing on their hind legs or reading weird news articles, like the one about the athlete who injured himself while eating breakfast. I also have a bad habit of watching TV shows that I've already watched several times. I even watched shows that I don't even like, including one of the Kardashian spinoffs. (I couldn't sit through a whole episode, though; watching it made me want to start banging my head against the wall because I figured that would be less painful.)
Because of that, I am now behind on my dissertation. I have to face the fact that I might not complete my Ph.D. next year like I originally planned. And I feel awful that I haven't accomplished as much as my classmates have. I thought about why I kept procrastinating, and I realized that it was because I was scared that I wouldn't write something good, and sometimes it was because I didn't know what to say at all. I found myself unable to write anything when I sat down in front of my laptop. It was so much easier to watch another rerun of Friends instead.
2. I don't want to be living in an overpriced, substandard apartment that I hate with neighbors I hate even more. Today I saw that one of my neighbors apparently coughed up an enormous loogie and wiped it on the wall of the elevator. I touched it out of curiosity before I realized what it was, because I'm a dodo head like that. And that is reason #487 why my neighbors drive me nuts.
I want to live in a nicer apartment with a landlord who doesn't believe that running water that doesn't turn brown and washing machines and dryers that actually work are unnecessary luxuries. I want to live in a place where my neighbors are quiet and considerate, and not the type of people who have loud parties almost every night and fall down drunk outside my apartment at 2 A.M. while squealing, "WHOOPSIE! I think I just fell down, hahahaha!"
But on the other hand, the fact that I rarely take advantage of what this city has to offer has made me focus more on the bad things about living here, like the inconsiderate drivers who come close to running me over because they're talking on their cell phones. That makes me want to scream, "Why don't you go someplace where you and your cell phone can be alone, JERK!"
I actually used to yell at bad drivers, because I got so mad at their carelessness and rudeness. I stopped when I realized that a) it was dangerous, because they just might come back with their cars, and b) screaming at them made me look even worse than they did. I realized that I was taking out my frustration on them because I was working too hard. (But drivers who care more about their cell phones than about making sure they don't run anyone down still bother me.)
So now when things get a little too much and I feel like screaming again, I try to set aside time to do something that's just for me, like work on my novel in a coffeehouse or go to the Art Institute on one of its free admission days. Even though it means sacrificing time that could be spent on my work, I always end up feeling better as a result. And I think that makes me do better at my jobs, too.
What about you? Who or where do you not want to be in the next five years?