What’s Your “Plan Z?”


Everyone has a “Plan A” — the one where everything goes right, you get the girl (or guy), your novel gets published, your hair stays lustrous and you end your earthly days eating goat cheese and crystalized lavender in an Italian villa with your BFF and a couple retired greyhounds.

Most people also have a “Plan B” — a contingency scenario. A pessimistic, but acceptable alternative to the ecstatic glory of Plan A. It might involve teaching, getting a roommate, or going back to school. It’s usually vague-ish, because it’s not fun to think about. It has the faintest tinge of failure, because it’s not success — it’s settling.

I don’t like to contemplate my “Plan B,” because the more I think about it, the more possible / viable / likely it becomes.

Instead, I prefer to fantasize about my “Plan Z” — the absolute worst-case scenario. The end of the road. The point of no return. The bottomest bottom. The lowest low. The pit of despair. EPIC. FAILURE.

For me, “Plan Z” means losing the house I worked my booty off to buy at the age of 24 and renting a raggedy studio apartment for $400 a month. Instead of working as a promotional wordsmith & pro-active pimp, I’d get a grim gig as a graveyard shift bartender in the dive bar to end all dive bars. I’d wear the same pair of jeans every day, drink drip coffee from McDonalds and eat 99-cent packs of Hostess snack cakes. I’d sing Dolly Parton songs to the bikers and drunks who littered my bar. At the end of my shift, I’d trundle home to my empty bed — make that empty mattress — on the floor. On my days off, I’d drink cheap boxed wine and make sandwiches out of welfare cheese and Wonderbread. I’d curl my hair with empty Diet Coke cans and stare at gasoline rainbows in gutter puddles.

Can I make a scandalous admission? My “Plan Z” actually sounds kinda awesome. And by admitting to myself that the absolute worst-case scenario I can envision is (gasp!) “kinda awesome,” I’ve just taken the power (and terror) out of failure. That’s the beauty of having a Plan Z.

So your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to articulate your “Plan Z,” in all it’s wretched glory. Own it. Love it. Know that you’ll never actually do it — but that even if you do, you’ll still be okay. More than okay — you might even be kinda awesome.

Wanna share your plans — big & small, ill-advised & brilliant? Leave a comment, yo. Oh, and remember: one person’s “Plan A” is another’s “Plan Z!”



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Yeah, I like your Plan Z. It sounds a lot like mine, except I’d sling coffee at some beach side cafe, wear bikinis instead of underwear, own no shoes except flip flops, and drink cheap beer during late night barbecues. Loves it…still might do it. :)

TNR: Word. There are moments when my “Plan Z” seems infinitely preferable to my “Plan A.” But then I remember that I love dark-roast espresso, hypo-allergenic pillows, and being able to work in my silk bathrobe, like Hugh Hefner. “Plan A” it is!

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 8, 2010 Reply

Alex, that is brilliant.

Eliz on Jun 8, 2010 Reply

Thanks, Eliz! But c’mon … you didn’t share your “Plan Z” … spill it!

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 9, 2010 Reply

This is a frickin’ amazing Plan Z! I like singing Dolly Parton songs right now, so maybe I’m even further along the road to Plan Z stardom than I realized.

My Plan Z includes never actually moving away from home. Instead, I’d have daily spontaneous-yet-choreographed dance routines in my underwear while my parents are away at work- someone’s gotta pay the bills and keep a roof over my boomerang head! I’d have free rein over the entire house, since all of my younger siblings will have long since moved out. I could finally wear my shiny purple glitter leggings without fear of mockery. I would have rotating bedrooms and a crazy abundance of closet space. Every once and a while, I’d walk up the road to hang out with my neighbour, and we would drink the beers her dad bought us. They would be warm, but we’d make the best of it. I’d also walk up the road in the other direction to my grandparents’ place, and my grandma would feed me maple leaf cookies and orange juice with extra pulp. Every night, I would make a delicious supper for my parents (I actually have culinary skills in my Plan Z dreams) and we would then proceed to watch approximately 11 hours of “Criminal Minds.”

And now I’m having major maple leaf cookie cravings! They are also in my “Plan A” scenario… as are the eleventy trillion hours of “Criminal Minds.”

A few years ago, I went through a terrible horrible break up and had to relocate to a new city suddenly. I lost all my freelance work and had to get a normal job to pay rent + take care of my animals. The list goes on. Things couldn’t get much worse than they were. It was really depressing until I realized that my new life was pretty sweet (living in an artist warehouse space and roller skating in my living room? yes please!) Now when I start to feel glum I remember that and how much more awesome life is now.

I like to think about plan z compared to plan a and think about what I really do want in life. I was super happy with how my life was going, until I got thrown into another life and realized how much better I’m off where I am now.

So nowadays whenever I get bummed about my to do list or down on myself for not being totally perfect, I think about plan z and smile.

KYLIE: You had me at maple cookie! Nom nom! Plan Zs should always include snacks. Cuz if you’re gonna hit rock bottom … might as well have something to munch on.

MISS TESS: Dude, your Plan Z sounds like a rowdy early ’90s romantic comedy about a rag-tag group of teens living on the lam! In other words, I love it. Thanks for sharing!

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 11, 2010 Reply

Oooh, I like this. I think it’s really interesting to take a good look at your Plan Z–& realize that it’s not so bad after all.

My Plan Z has always been this: I’ll work at a retail store (hopefully one w/ a generous employee discount), rent a trailer near a beach (is this even possible?) & spend my nights reading & my days off in the ocean. Plan Z, for me & most everyone else it looks like, ends up just including the bare essentials. And in this day & age, sometimes having LESS actually looks far more appealing than having MORE.

Thanks for this! xo

ERICA LEE: I know the perfect location for your “Plan Z”: the north shore of O’ahu! What you’ve described is basically the standard way of life. And it’s beautiful.

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 11, 2010 Reply

Definitely agree about Plan B always hitting uncomfortably close to home!
My Plan Z… I see myself living in a tiny, shoddy apartment complex somewhere downtown that I’d still have to pay an arm and a leg for, Montreal being what it is. In the winter I’d have to get my dad or brother to come over and help my tape plastic over the windows to keep out the cold because I am totally incompetent, but I’d still have to steal all the musty old quilts and camping blankets that are stashed away in my parent’s basement. The heating would always be on the fritz, so one day I’d be cocooned in a corner in a sleeping bag, the next lying on my floor in nothing but underwear, dying of heat. My house would be luxuriously bare. I’d spend free time cutting things pining away over Ikea catalogues. I wouldn’t have to pay for a gym membership; I’d get my exercise pole dancing. I’d drink hot water when I ran out of tea (actually doing that right now, surprisingly good, and just as comforting) and I’d eat a hundred packs of sesame snacks, those cloyingly sweet little cracker things you can get for 10 cents a pack, and, of course, cup-o-soups. I’d make my art on the backs of found cardboard, and other lovely trash treasures. But I do that already. I wouldn’t have cable, or internet, but I would still have my little brick television with it’s (hopefully still working by then) VHS player.

… I want to live like this. Undoubtedly I’ve romanticized it, but still… who needs success when you’ve got sesame snacks?

Hope on Jun 11, 2010 Reply

HOPE: Sesame snacks? VHS tapes? Cardboard art? Sounds like heaven! Hope it never comes to pass, but if it does … can I come over for a hot water party? :)

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 11, 2010 Reply

I think the life I’m living IS my plan z. . . because it leads to plan a. So right now I’m an unpublished writer (well, my books are unpublished, anyway), writing and writing and getting nowhere good for years and years. But eventually one of the books gets accepted and BOOM! there I am in plan a.


LOUISE CURTIS: “From Z Slush Pile To A Star” could be the title of your best-selling memoir. Or not. I’m tired. No more weak puns.

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 11, 2010 Reply

Your plan Z is my life right now – well make it a punkrock club intead of dive bar and a dead-end university coure to add, and you’ve got me.

ya know, life rocks this way.

and my plan Z is to have my boy’s baby and pack lunchboxes for the boy everyday. play with the cats and do the odd translating job. spend every weekend with my dad so he get some time with the baby. make my own iced tea and drink beer with dinner, smoke roll ups, and pick apples in the fall. cause I’ll have time for that.

it doesn’t sound so bad, really.

lily on Jun 12, 2010 Reply

LILY: I heartily recommend moving “apple picking” into Plan A territory. It’s the best activity ever.

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 12, 2010 Reply

“Plan Z” preyed on my mind (but gently) and this morning I realised my plan z as stated above was ALL WRONG. The TRUE plan z is clearly the zombie apocalyse. I’d lose my savings, my cats (yum), and my comfy home. But on the up side, I have a VERY handy aluminium baseball bat and I’m pretty sure I could become a chieftainess in the new world.

I may have wandered from the point of the article. . . possibly.

LOUISE: One can never over-prepare for the zombie apocalypse!

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 12, 2010 Reply

This post is great… Plan Z is almost ‘what I wish I could do but it would feel like spoiling my high-achiever self-image’ or something. If I lost everything I would sing with my guitar on the streets and draw portraits for cash. I’d live in a one room studio and grow my own vegetables by hanging buckets of soil out of the window. I’d read way more novels, play my guitar all night long and sleep in all morning, hang out at cafes and talk to strangers, organise exhibitions in empty buildings… and maybe live in one too. You’re so right, Plan Z is awesome. Maybe plan A and plan Z can mesh together with their two kinds of wonderfulness.

BECKY: Your “Plan Z” sounds like the first three decades of Woody Guthrie’s life. I think Mr. Guthrie should be your new lifestyle icon. Just a suggestion from a fellow high-achiever.

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 13, 2010 Reply

Haha, I intend to take pole dancing lessons so that IF IT COMES TO IT I can become a pole dancer. I think I might anyway. Haha (:

Anon on Jun 14, 2010 Reply

ANON: Hey, it worked for Diablo Cody!

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 14, 2010 Reply

I’d lose my so-called amazing job and work somewhere on minimum wage, not get my PhD but read all the novels I wanted from the library in my spare time, and never have money for eating out but become the world’s most fabulous muffin-maker. Yay, muffins and books (hey why do bother working so hard?) There is such joy in little things.


Erin on Jun 14, 2010 Reply

daps on figuring out a way to handle fear of failure in a way everyone can relate to. its brilliant!
someone needs to illustrate these plan z submissions. dibs!

Tiffany on Jun 14, 2010 Reply

LETS DO IT!! look out for an email from me soon girl!! : D)

Tiffany on Jun 14, 2010 Reply

Ha, I totally love this! I was actually just having a conversation with a friend a few weeks back about our respective “plan z”-s (although we didn’t have the snazzy name for them at the time)!

I decided that I would blow my dwindling supply of cash on a really, really awesome set of luggage and a video camera, pack up my precious worldly belongings (my stuffed animals have priority here, but I might just have to leave space for some clothes and shoes and whatnot), and head out into the nearest big city to begin video-documenting my life as a homeless person, living just out of my luggage, moving from state to state to find out where the most hospitable strangers in the country really live (and constantly in search of places to charge my camera battery, I’m sure)!

To be honest, it sounds… kind of exhilarating!

Samantha on Jun 15, 2010 Reply

SAMANTHA: There’s a wickedly funny comedian / writer / performed named Ann Randolph who made a documentary MUCH like the one you’re describing! She’s a fascinating lady (and a wonderful friend): http://www.annrandolph.com/

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 15, 2010 Reply

Huh, go figure! Sounds awesome! I absolutely need to track this down now, thanks for the tip!

Samantha on Jun 15, 2010 Reply

This post was SO rad. I actually did something similar recently, when I was daydreaming about all the perks to being homeless.

Anyway you inspired me to write a whole blog post about this – here it is!


this post is so perfect perfect perfect, exactly what i needed to read this morning!

in the last four months i have entered the surreal world of my very own “plan z”; after the onset of a crippling, undiagnosed pain disorder and a painful failed pregnancy, i have been forced to drop out of college and leave my [beloved] university, friends, two jobs and boyfriend behind. my declaration of medical leave has rendered my last two [extremely expensive!!] years of higher education useless, yet i am not well enough to hold a job or even drive a car, stunting both my academic and financial progress. i am back to living in my mother’s home, in the eight-by-ten foot room i inhabited in high school. i have no money, next to no education, no medical diagnosis, a snowball’s chance in hell of having children and no future plan to speak of.

i NEVER expected this. nobody prepped me for the day life would kick me in the face and knock me out cold. but you know what ? it’s honestly….not that bad.

my time alone has given me a chance to pick up old pastimes [reading, writing, painting and sewing] that i had given up on in exchange for a vibrant social life. my floundering financial situation has given me an opportunity to clear out excess from my life, cut down on needless spending, recycle, conserve, and get creative with the resources i have. the aftermath of my miscarriage has encouraged me to reconsider personal values and connect with a more mindful, insightful and lovely community of people, and my illness has allowed me to step away from the city’s [however enjoyable] nighttime world of raves, parties and drugs towards a less fast-paced [but oddly stimulating] life of mindful indulgence and meaningful experience. best of all [though lonely at times] it has proven to both my significant other and i that our relationship is not only strong enough to weather the hardships of pain, illness and distance, but loving and healthy enough to serve as a cornerstone to build our mutual [and undoubtedly interesting] future upon.

in any case, thank you ever so much for posting this tidbit; it’s forced me to finally put into words all the jumbled bullshit i’ve had stewing about in my head. and your advice is steadfast and solid.


ps: maybe i’ll write a memoir or something…”the plan z survival guide”.

LORRA: I’m honored that you were inspired to write a full post on your blog! Thanks for sharing your brain with us.

MARINA: You are a champion. Your spirit and healthy mindset will serve you well, whether in your Plan A, B or Z. Keep on rockin’.

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 18, 2010 Reply

I don’t like to think about Plan Z. That’s because I’m living my Plan Z right now, trying to work my way up to Plan B (Plan A is out the window). I wish I could be all zen about it, I wish I could have found the positive in it like Marina has, but it still hurts like hell — I’m grieving my Plan A, I guess.

It may be that one day I look back and am grateful Plan A (and maybe even Plan B) didn’t work out, but that seems impossible right now. Still, there’s always a glimmer of hope, even if it seems faint, and I guess that’s what keeps me going.

DIANE: I’m so sorry you’re grieving your Plan A right now. That’s a real loss, and it’s rough.

I hope you dream up a new Plan A — one that feels authentic and achievable.

Hang in there, kiddo!

Alexandra Franzen on Jun 25, 2010 Reply

Thanks Alexandra. I hope to one day look back and say “Plan A version 2.0 rocks,” or similar. Fingers crossed!

This rocks.
I am kinda living my Plan Z right now (well, I’m not living with my parents, so that probably boosts me up to Plan Y)–I think plenty of young people are in this economy. But AMEN to the idea that Plan Z kind of awesome, in its own unplanned, freeing way. And you never know how Plan Z will contribute to Plan A down the road!

Emily on Jul 12, 2010 Reply

What’s so amusing about this, is that I’m living my plan Z right now. I’m living with a friend, working a damned 9-5 (except it’s more 6:30 – 3:30)… and I’m sleeping on the floor again…

I’ve lived with so many friends, and in so many different states, with so little in terms of physical belongings… I realized how cool it is to be a nomad. My biggest fear was being “homeless” and “financially unstable” but the homeless part is cool so long as your friends have a couch and you know how to get that dough…

Plus, for some odd reason, it makes me look like a moving target… a romantic and wild child of a Doll … who can’t be stopped unless someone (awesome) proposes and forces her to lay her hat and heart right there to call wherever she’s got her current roots planted her new permanent home.

*wistful and misty eyes*

Your plan Z is my current life, my plan Z is homelessness, prostitution, drug addiction and death :(

Molly on Feb 26, 2014 Reply

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