On Having a Life Plan

I’ve tried to write this post several times, but something stops me after about two hours of work. I write 1,000 words, then delete it all. This topic is a topic I need to discuss in a very elegant and careful way, as my views on the matter are probably very different than what a lot of people believe. That’s part of the beauty of this planet, right? Millions of people with millions of beliefs, put together to have conversations and help guide each other through the world…at least, that’s how I see it.

When I was younger, having someone communicate thoughts like these to me would have saved a lot of sadness and heartache, which is the main reason why I wanted to publish this post. If it brings one kid a little bit of comfort, I’ll be happy. Even though that’s my objective, I’m still very nervous about pushing “Publish.”

Here goes:

Societal Expectations

I can’t speak about what things are like in other countries, as I’ve only ever lived in the United States. Most of what I say will be highly geared towards Americans, but some of it may be applicable across cultures.

There’s a lot of pressure placed on children in the United States to sort out what they want to do for the rest of their lives at a very young age. When I was in school, a long time ago, you needed to have a concrete idea by age 15 so you could take the right classes in High School and apply for colleges best suited for training you in your chosen career. One of the reasons, I think, choosing your career needs to be done so early is that you need the financing for the rest of society’s basic life plan.

If you are seeking advice pertaining to that subject, click here to read my post “On What I Want to Be When I Grow Up.”

“Society’s basic life plan.” What’s that? Well, based on your culture entirely, it is a simplified guide for life made up of milestones that your society upholds as virtuous. In America that means a life that has success, that means love and that means worth. It means doing well in school, going to college, getting a good job where you can “climb the ladder”, getting married, buying a single-family house, having children, sending them to school, then retirement and travel. This is the traditional American dream.

When we got married, Trevor and I were subconsciously striving to achieve the traditional American dream as well. We’d graduated university with good grades, gotten full time jobs, gotten married and even went looking at houses; we were well on our way to the middle milestones of the traditional American dream.

After looking at houses and realizing we didn’t want to live in our current area for too long, we understood buying a home would be a silly thing to do (thanks for your advice, Dad!). Why did we want one so bad? We didn’t need one? Renting was cheaper for us, so why change? Instead of buying a home we purchased a car, and then moved into a more sensible apartment a year later.

Abnormal Dreams

Now, I didn’t always want the traditional American dream. For most of my life thus far, I never imagined I’d get married. I envisioned a life of travel and solitude. I imagined adopting a child in need.

Somewhere along the line, I was told that dream was wrong and that I shouldn’t want those things. They were pushed from my mind, and in a panic I tried to sort out another plan for myself.

Details of circumstances won’t be shared here, but I became extremely depressed at the thought of giving up my dreams and goals to pursue a lifestyle I’d never found appealing. By my freshman year of college I had regular bouts of self-harm and started seeing a therapist.

What I learned from her was that I needed to be more open with my friends and family about who I was, and what I believed in. Doing so was immensely difficult, but I was greeted with a glorious piece of knowledge that made me act better towards myself: I still didn’t want the same things in my life that my friends wanted, or my parents had wanted. They may not like it, or agree, but at the end of the day it is my life to live. Be as respectful as possible, as it takes all kinds of people and all kinds of dreams to make the world turn.

If you take away anything from this post, please take away that knowledge. If nothing else, take that!

Be Open

As I said, I had visions of what my life would look like from a young age. I’m sure a lot of people do. That’s all fine and dandy until something makes you deviate from that dream. A relationship, a birth, a death, a job, money, all kinds of things can derail whatever vision you had for your life and it’s extremely important to handle that with grace and an open mind.

If you had asked me in 2008 whether I thought I’d marry Trevor in 2012, I would have told you absolutely not. I’d actually asked him out the summer of 2008 and he told me no, so I’d totally pushed any idea of a relationship from my mind! Eight years later we’re married four years and loving every second of it.

I’m not depressed anymore, I’m not resentful that my life doesn’t match what I’d planned out for myself as a child, a teen, or a young adult. My life is a happy life, and one that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t open to letting go.

The fact is I don’t know where I want to go, or what I want to do in my life. I’m not sure I want to have children, or retire, and that’s okay! Who’s to say I won’t want those things in the future? The point is to keep asking yourself, to continue to have the conversation instead of blindly following a societal life plan, or a vision you had for yourself as a kid.

It seems to me that life is all about discovering your journey as you go. Granted, general direction is nice, but your life will figure itself out. As I’ve learned, life will always sort the details out for you.


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