And Then He Asked Me If I Had A “Plan”

Today I’m guesting a new friend and blogger, Julian Easterly, who is a travel writer who lives and works abroad and whose blog Between the Breaths you’ll want to check out after you’ve heard from him here. Like me, Julian is interested in why we travel as well as how travel affects us. Because he’s also a writer, he addresses the more complex aspects of travel that most people don’t typically think of, like: how does my travel affect others around me? I love the way he thinks and I’m pretty sure you’re going to appreciate it too. Here’s a snatch of “flash fiction” that combines the authenticity of true-life dialogue with that emotional powder keg that can be found only in a father and son going head-to-head. Enjoy!

And Then He Asked Me If I Had A “Plan”
The play by play for how I told my Dad I wanted to live abroad.

“You’ll fall behind in the job market!” Boom!
“How’d you plan to make live?” Smack!
“You graduated at the top of the class. Get grad school paid for!” Bam!
And finally the coup de grace: “Do you even have a plan?” Wham!
Even with a phone hot against my ear, I feel like Sugar Ray Robinson trying to parry and counter these punches.
I would like to hang up on the guy, but it’s my dad. It’s been about a month or two since we’ve last talked. I calm down.
I tell him again about my decision to wait for graduate school and proceed to recount reasons: youth; languages; the immediate shortage of cushy positions and lucrative tenured tracks.
Rushing of into a 6+ year Doctorate program could potentially waste a vital portion of my life that I will never get back.
Two years, I tell him. Two years to see if it’s what I want to do.
“Ok. But it sounds like you don’t have a plan.”
I take a breath, and admit “Okay dad. You’ve got me. I don’t have a full proof plan.” I explain to him that I have a little job teaching English, and a job as a cook in a restaurant I frequent, and that of course continuing coaching football helps.
“Sounds like minimum wage, son.”
Yea dad, I say, the pay won’t be the best.
“Where are you going to live?”
The conversation continues in this fashion: He asks a logical question, I answer with what information I’ve gathered. He sighs and tells me that I could do better financially back home. As this conversation continues, the validity of his words becomes clearer.
Listen to the words of people who love and care about you.
He’s right. Aside from rudimentary notes in an old notebook and pages I’ve filled with connections and promises from people I’ve met, I don’t have a concrete plan. Admitting that I did not deny the argument was my first step.
It’s necessary to admit the reality, yet despite it all, go through with it all. Work. School. Live. Discover how to avoid the goldfish bowl.
Demonstrate that you’ve put an effort to research.
I talked to Dr. Carino, Brennan, and Bates, I say.
“Your professors?”
Yea.
At the hour mark fatigue starts to set. I decide tell him that I sought advice from people with seats at those lucrative tenured jobs. Of course, they wished that I would go to graduate school, a year or so break for self-discovery wasn’t a bad idea. Dr. Brennan had even been taken a year off between the transition himself to travel and experience.
It’s hard to convince a man of experience with one sole voice, after all sometimes the harmony of a symphony mores more than the solo.
Find a common ground.
We discuss my dreams and my goals for some time. I can tell he can hear the excitement in my voice as I talk about the possibilities: graduate school abroad, teaching in Korea, farming in Thailand. All those connections with new cultures. I remind him of that trip to Cancun he and my mom had almost paid off and never left for. I tell him I’ve paid in work, and that I want to enjoy the opportunity.
Silence.
In concession, or rather a momentary retreat, he tells me softly, “No matter what you do, I will always support you son. I love you boy. Goodbye.”
Love you too, I reply. Peace.
We hang up the phone, and I sit on the bed, emotionally drained. I lie on my bed and wonder why my dad didn’t take that first trip abroad. What made him stop his payment? If he hadn’t, maybe he would understand why I was so passio—
I call him back immediately with so much I want to say, but I settle for a simple, Thank You that he accepts with explanation.
I promised myself I would get him to make that trip to Cancun one day soon. I had to. Because a simple Thank You doesn’t quite suffice for parents who exchange cruise payments for cribs and diapers.

7 thoughts on “And Then He Asked Me If I Had A “Plan”

  1. I will start reading the book I’ve won from you later on today. Finished up on Fifty Shades…………..thank you Joanne from Goodreads!

  2. the question is always, what do you want to do? what do you need to do? what will fill you give up to do it? and who pays for it? success in this life can and is measured by how much money we make, the respect and weight of the titles we earn along the way. and then there are the things we want to do, the things we need to do just because that’s who we are, many of those “need to does” don’t make sense to anyone but our inner self and aren’t compatible with family members, jobs and that ladder that sensible people are required to climb. the idea causes hand ringing all around and yet you can’t ignore the need to climb, swim or pack up and go. fear of doing something stupid keeps us turning our personnel mill stone. others find a way, most of us even after taking the risk end up where we started, with the bonus of a story or two to tell, some find their soul, breaking the surface of the pool and discovering a world filled with the dreams we dared to dream and the bittersweet honey of doing what we were meant to do. the question is not what we must do? but what we are willing to give up in order to do it?

  3. This was a really sweet exchange. I get tired of books where sulky teenagers mouth off at either rigid or long-suffering parents. What I love here is that you have two different points of view, but the love is there, and because of that, patience and compromise. A much harder piece to be able to write, but with so much more depth. Great post!

  4. I had a very similar conversation with my parent about teaching ESL in South Korea and postponing my jump into the film industry as a new college grad. Lots of disagreeing and then months later a common ground. Yay!

    Great post. It’s good to hear that someone else went through the same thing. Best of luck!

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