When I was younger, I would plan out my future step-by-step. I took comfort in these plans and in the conviction that I had it all figured out. More than that, I took pride in thinking that I knew exactly where I would be in the future.
I knew — or at least, I thought I knew — as early as ninth grade that I wanted a career in public service. I had it perfectly planned out: I would get an international affairs degree, go to law school and work for a government department or possibly a nonprofit — but that last part was the extent of the flexibility I allowed myself. It seemed like the perfect plan, so I clung to it throughout my high school years. I joined student government, attended leadership conferences in D.C. and did everything I could to secure this future I so desperately thought I wanted.
I remember sitting in the first class I got to take in my major, Intro to International Affairs. I excitedly sat down in my seat in the front row, pulled out my notebook, and waited not-so-patiently to begin the lecture. It didn’t take much time for me to realize that it wasn’t really what I thought it would be. It took much longer for me to accept that perhaps my plan, my perfectly curated and intensely thought out plan, was not actually the right plan for me. It was much later that I realized that maybe, just maybe, I would be okay without a plan.
I have always had a difficult time accepting change and an even more difficult time walking into something blindly; I crave the security that comes with knowing the next step — and the next few after that — and having control over the most important aspects of my life. I think, more than anything, I was scared of not knowing.
Somewhere in that process, though, I had to confront the reality that our plans rarely ever work out. I no longer really wanted to move to D.C. and work for the government, international affairs was not what I truly cared about and the things that were once important no longer were.
I changed my major, tried a new job, joined a new organization — all of these things forced my outside of that comfort zone that was characterized by familiarity and expectation. They were terrifying to me, despite seeming like normal adjustments that any college student would make. I had to consciously choose to let go of those expectations and see what happened when I allowed myself to invest in the things that brought me joy, despite the fear I also felt.
To make matters even more confusing, after trying these new things, I came to the decision that I wanted to be a high school teacher after I graduated. Teaching was not only miles away from what my original plan once was, but it was a plan that I feared would not be supported by my Tech degree. Suddenly, my fears grew beyond just not knowing what my future held; I no longer knew what my present held, either.
Everything was flipped on its head. Yet, in that experience, I realized that I limited myself much more by having this plan and not trusting that things would work out in time. By allowing myself the comfort of control, I neglected myself of the freedom of just existing and letting go of all of the conceptions I had made about my own life.
We are forced to accept that hard truth: change is inevitable. I have found that to be especially true of my years in college; I am unrecognizable from that girl that once felt assured of her future.
I have no idea what my future really holds anymore. And that’s okay. For now, I am okay with finishing my degree at Tech and going with whatever brings me joy when that day comes. Somehow, that girl that relied on her perfectly curated plans has become someone that is okay with not knowing.
We can never predict the future and we can never control how we, or our lives, will be changed. Our priorities are going to shift, we will grow and we will have to make choices. Through those things, we learn to find comfort in uncertainty, just as we once found comfort in its counterpart. Perhaps most importantly, we learn to adapt to the changes we encounter.