I made a new friend the other night. He was 22, a student, the whole world ahead of him. He and I talked for some time about careers and education and picking a path. He was very concerned that he had to "pick something" and that he create a back-up plan just in case.
And oh how I did relate! 22 year old me was exactly the same. I have always been a planner by nature, but, as life is wont to do, my plans rarely stayed on course and being somewhat flexible has allowed my brain to stay relatively intact. So I felt compelled to tell him the secret to surviving life: you can always change your mind.
Though I could tell he believed me and even valued my input (imagine that!), he was nervous to really accept this truth. So I told him: Make your plans. Stick to them. But don't give them too much weight or let them rule you, because life rarely works out the way you intend and you can always change your mind. And if you do change your mind? Everything will be fine. If things don't work out? You won't die from it.
I am convinced this is the secret of life. How vain of me, I realize, to purport to know the secret of life. BUT, I think I'm on to something!
First, I think the dedication to a plan you choose when you're barely an adult is what causes heart attacks and resentment and depression. This isn't 1964. I don't think you have to choose one career before you even begin college, meet your life partner when you're 21, get married, buy a house, and pop out 4.5 kids, all before your thirties.
How do we think we're even emotionally smart enough to make all those life decisions at such a young age? And after we've chosen so young, we felt we had to stick with it or become pariahs. Well I call bullshit.
Life is fluid. And instead of forcing a path, I've chosen to let life find me. Sure, that hasn't always worked out in the ways I'd hoped, but I've also had some cool experiences and flexibility helps me stay somewhat positive (that is, when I'm not snarking the world to death).
I wish I'd kept better journals as a teen. Because what I wouldn't give to read you my young plans. I wanted to be married by 25 and running Vogue Magazine, all while adopting 4 kids and fighting injustice in third world countries. I had big plans.
But life never quite follows your well-laid plans.
Instead, I did all sorts of different things in all sorts of crazy orders.
I got two AAs (two AAs don't make a BA, ps). Bounced between every industry from fashion to television to event planning. I got my BA at 26. I lived abroad. I got engaged at 25 and we'd broken up before I was 26. Somewhere along the way I adopted two cats. I discovered things I loved like writing and photography and travel and food.
At some point, I figured out I preferred the things I loved to a solid paycheck. I fell in love. Had my heart broken. Met new people. Made new friends. Left others behind. Started cutting out those in my life who were toxic. Made huge, scary changes. Made huge, scary moves. Surprised people. Showed my loyalty and reliability to others.
Life can change drastically in a single moment. And the only way to live, I think, is to change with it. What seemed like a brilliant plan when I was 22 now seems slightly naive to me. But there are things I'm glad I went for back then because each step led to where I am today.
Recently, my friend Sonja asked me if I saw myself staying in Portland forever (Or something to that effect. I'd had some wine. Shut up.). I replied, "I don't know." I don't know not because I don't like it here or because I don't think I could be happy here for some time. But because I honestly don't know what the future holds. I don't know where life will take me. Maybe it will take me to Seattle or the east coast or Europe or South East Asia or maybe just to the other side of the city.
I don't know and I'm okay that I don't know. Somewhere in the last 12 years I stopped making strident plans. I still make goals. But the fluidity of those goals astounds even me. Hardly a thing has worked out like I planned at 18 or 20 or 22, but I've learned so much and grown so much. All, I think, due to being flexible with each curve ball thrown my way (would you look at that! a sports metaphor!).
So what am I rambling on and on about? This: make plans, but be okay with changing them. Plans help us get through the day, sure, but being able to let them go helps us get through life.
You can always change your mind.
Except with tattoos and children. Can't send those back, despite what my mother always told me.
2 years ago