“I really thought I’d know more what I was doing by now.”
– My Boyfriend, On Being 20
I don’t like surprises.
Most people who know me, know this about me. They know I have spreadsheets in which I plan out each waking hour of the day to make sure I do everything I plan on doing. They know I don’t like waiting in lines because it throws off my timing. They know I’m usually exactly five minutes early to everything (except for when I’m fifteen minutes fashionably late, which I also plan out). So they know. I don’t like surprises.
Here’s the problem with that.
Life is one big surprise party.
It’s a surprise that I live in Missouri, when before I had no idea where Missouri was on a map. It’s a surprise that I made stir fry for dinner tonight and not the regular pasta or questionable frozen taquitos. It’s a surprise that my GPA is what it is after so many hours
wasted spent watching Gossip Girl.
It’s a surprise, really, that we’re alive and we’re here and we’re us.
So when I was asked today in Creativity class whether I plan out long-term goals for myself, I realized that I don’t anymore. I used to back in high school. Now it’s a matter of making it through the week. Because in high school, I lived in a bubble where I was on a set track that had to stop at certain places along the way to get from point A to point B– I’d go to college at UCLA, attend law school after, become an attorney, yada yada. Then I joined the school newspaper, and the plan changed– I’d go to USC or Boston University, study journalism, and become a magazine editor. I thought I had it all figured out.
Surprise! I’m not doing any of those things. Except the journalism part, loosely.
And I can’t see myself doing anything else.
So no, I no longer plan out my long-term goals, because things change so much that I feel the need to predict the unpredictable and take life as it comes. But there was still a void– I’m ambitious and I know I’m capable of achieving amazing things, but I lose sight of what exactly I want. So it’s time to try different ways of thinking.
There are three modes of thinking:
I’m in a different mode each day. Some weeks I know exactly what I want and I will stop at nothing to do what I think I need to do to get it. Those are the push weeks, the spreadsheet weeks. Other weeks, I wait and see what happens. I let life slow down for a moment while I take a step back and enjoy my daily life. Those are the drift weeks. The weeks I forget to write anything down in my planner.
And lastly, some weeks I have a vision. I see what I want. I get a glimpse of an incredible future, and I let that glimpse carry me through the week. I wish there were more of those weeks.
Life is a surprise party. You control only about 10% of it. But as the guest speaker in my class said, you can control 100% of that 10% you’re given. Maybe everything is unpredictable and things will get thrown at you that you couldn’t have seen coming. But you can still hold on to that vision, that future on the hazy horizon, and let that guide you when you aren’t sure what else to do.