Learning to Loosen Your Control on Life

Learning to Loosen Your Control on Life

I recently turned 25, and I’ll be honest, I thought I’d be a lot further along by now.

When I was in sixth grade, my teacher asked the class to draw a picture of what we thought we would be like at 25 years old. What were our future selves doing? Where were we living?

I set to work painting a picture of what I thought would be the perfect life for someone that age. It was a year before I would see “The Devil Wears Prada” in theaters, but I was already drawing a well-dressed cartoon version of myself standing in front of a large desk in a high-rise corner office, pen in hand.

“At 25, I will be living in New York and working as the editor of a big magazine,” I had written as the description. “I will be making lots of money and I will be married with a dog.”

I’ve always been a planner.

I like to have things mapped out and know exactly what I’m working toward. I prefer to weigh out the pros and cons and then make one rational decision after another. For as long as I can remember, I’ve kept endless to-do lists and goal charts. And to be honest, that’s worked pretty well for me. Until after college, when the possibilities were endless and nothing seemed to go according to plan.

Having an image in my mind of how I wanted my life to be and then having things play out very differently inevitably led to a lot of anxiety. My self-critic became debilitatingly loud.

Everyone else is doing so much better than you, it says. They’re settling down. They’re getting married. They’re buying houses. You should be more financially independent. You should be using your degree. You shouldn’t still be living at your parent’s house. Don’t be such a millennial stereotype. You should just give up on that dream you have of being a writer and do something more practical. You should. You should.

For me, a planner with anxiety, letting go of any control I have is not something that comes naturally. I want to hold onto things with a tight fist. I want to know the outcome.

What if I fail? What if this isn’t the exact thing I should be investing my time in? What if I get it wrong?

Sometimes I can’t help but think about the failures. The rejections. The missed opportunities. The jobs I didn’t even apply for because I was too scared or because I thought I wasn’t good enough. But then I think about the unexpected blessings. The journeys that weren’t in the five-year plan that I ended up falling in love with.

One of the most challenging, yet rewarding seasons of my life came from not knowing what to do after college. A summer of working and exploring in the Southwest and hiking the Grand Canyon, starting a freelance writing career, getting a job at the best little indie bookstore—these are the experiences that have shaped who I am, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

There are so many good things that have come my way when I stopped trying to count the steps in front of me. When I looked up and let myself veer off the path.

I can make all the lists. I can try to plan my next steps. I can build my future in my mind to be all that I think it should be. But I’m learning the importance of leaving plenty of room for things to simply happen.

When I loosen my grip on this thing called life, it’s easier to take the next step, even when I can’t see where my feet are going to land. Because those moments when I don’t know what to do, when I take a leap of faith, I end up meeting people and going places and doing things I never thought possible.

At 25, I am realizing I don’t have to have it all figured out. My inner planner is often paralyzed by fear and uncertainty, but I am learning to view life, with all its ups and downs, as an adventure, instead of an agenda. I am working hard, but letting the rest unfold as it needs to.

So here I am, taking the leap, having faith that the wind will carry me somewhere more beautiful than I could go on my own.  

Windrose Magazine Issue 2

Windrose Magazine is your guide to navigating life in your twenties through a collection of essays, interviews, and advice that will inspire you to chart your own life course, free of comparison.

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