The Thing About Plans Is This
Flights change. Book release dates change. Dinners with friends change. Sometimes, however, when you think you’ve made perfect, unbreakable plans that you truly want to work, it’s hard to realize, remember, and accept that some plans change.
When I started college in August 2008, I had no idea what job I hoped to have after graduation. Well, actually, I had an ongoing list hovering somewhere between 10 and 15 different jobs I wanted to have. I knew I couldn’t have all of these jobs because there were just too many options, but at 18 years old, it was hard to narrow down and choose how I wanted to spend the rest of my life.
On a hot, South Georgia summer day just one month after my high school graduation, I walked into orientation at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC). I was nervous because 1) I knew no one, 2) I couldn’t figure out which building was which, and 3) I thought I had to have my life figured out before I started college. The third point made me panic the most because I had yet reach that point of understanding. I thought I had to know what degree I wanted, what job I wanted, and where I wanted to live after college. The biggest problem I had was I thought I had to stick to this plan.
The thing about plans is this: they change.
All through high school I wanted to be a personal chef. During my last semester as a high school senior, I turned down acceptance into a really good culinary school, one I had dreamed of and talked about for four years. If I had turned down this long-time dream in a matter of minutes, how was I supposed to choose a degree track in just one day?
On that first day of college orientation, I picked English as my degree track so I could have something to help guide me. I knew I loved reading and writing, but I still didn’t know what I wanted to be. On my always-growing list of future occupations, there were several options that could benefit from or fall under an English degree – teacher, book editor, novelist, and journalist; so this track felt the most fitting.
Five years, two colleges, four degree tracks, and a whole lot of planning and re-planning later, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Rural Studies: Writing and Communication. I thought that once I had this degree, I would know exactly what job I wanted to have. But the truth is I still have a list with about 10 different occupations I pine for.
Earning a college degree wasn’t the answer to my questions. No, I am absolutely not saying that my college degree wasn’t worth it. In fact, I wish I had pushed myself harder and taken advantage of more help from professors, more clubs and activities, and more studying. I wouldn’t trade the education I got, the lessons I learned, and the relationships I built for anything. I do, however, wish I knew exactly what job I want.
Life after college has been a little frustrating because I can’t nail down what I’m supposed to do. It’s been hard not being able to just pick one job I want and go for it because I question whether it’s the right one. I love to read, write, and share stories with other people. I can’t, however, name one specific job I want to have. I can’t say I want to be a teacher or a novelist or a journalist because I want to be all of these things.
I grew up thinking a person had to have the same job forever, that people had to create routines and stick to the same thing day after day. I watched my dad go to a job that his dad sort of guided him into. I don’t think my dad ever loved this job or even liked it, but it’s what he has done every day for over 40 years, partly because his dad expected him to and partly because that’s just what he was taught to do: find a job and stick to it. Watching him go to the same job for so many years made me think that once I chose a job, that job was the only thing I could do until I finally reached retirement, whether I was happy with the job or not.
The thing about plans is this: they change.
I’ve written that statement several times in this piece, and I try to remind myself of it daily. It’s a wonderful idea to make plans, but it’s completely okay to let plans change. I know this falls on two different scales, but if I choose to write a sentence one way, I can easily reword or completely delete the sentence altogether if I don’t like it. If I can do that with a sentence, why can’t I do that with a job? What if I choose to become a journalist only to find that it makes me unhappy? I can change my plans. What if I choose to write a novel only to find that I can’t get past 25,000 words? I can change my plans.
I’ve thought a lot about what my next step in life should be. I’ve thought about what city I want to live in and what type of job I want to have. I’ve discussed it with family and friends, and besides my mama who doesn’t want me to move so far, they all tell me the same thing: “If you think it’ll make you happy, go for it.” I’ve made spreadsheets with budgets and savings goals and lists with lots of bullet points defining the pros and cons of moving to a new city in a different state. So far, I think the plan is pretty close to perfect. And when I try it, I’ll know that it’s okay if I don’t like what I’ve planned. All I have to do is adjust my plans because, after all, the thing about plans is this: they change.
[Photo by Julie Bloom.]