Fun fact: I wrote this story on December 31 — the last day of the year. This was very fortuitous timing because I spent a lot of time that week reflecting on the highs and lows of 2018. When I think of the best moments of the past year (getting engaged, starting my own business, traveling to Sweden) I didn’t see any of it coming.
On January 1, I wrote my list of resolutions, but the best moments came completely unplanned. I have always been a planner and I’ve thrived when I’ve had a clear path to follow. I’ve also thrived when taking chances, jumping on unexpected opportunities, and veering off my path. I’ve made lasting relationships in places I’ve least expected them, learned new skills, and changed my career without planning any of it. Why have I stopped planning my life? Let’s dive in.
I’m Not Living on a Timeline
Like many young adults, I went through the post-college graduation blues. They hit me hard. One of the main reasons was because I didn’t feel like I was doing the work I wanted to be doing. I knew I had to pay my dues, but industry and role wise, I was worried I was on the wrong path. There was a lot of fretting and brooding that first year. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to take a deep breath and relax. Within 15 months I moved on to a job that was a way better fit for me and my worries lifted immediately.
As could be expected, this new job came with new challenges and as much as I loved it, there were many aspects of my first job that I missed — clocking out by 4:30pm every day, the friends I made, and how those entry-level tasks came with entry-level responsibility. I learned that with a little hard work and determination, things will work out, so why not enjoy yourself along the way? When I erased the timeline of where I should be, I was able to enjoy where I currently am.
I Feel Less Disappointed
Back when I worried about a timeline (I should have my dream job, husband, house, baby, by X age) I found I was so much more critical of myself. It didn’t matter if I was happy not being married or loved the location of my one bedroom apartment, I felt like I wasn’t keeping up. My own happiness was overshadowed by trying to check off my life to-do list. Now I’m happy if I’m just on the path toward meeting my goals. Some may take longer to reach than others, but usually I’m surprised by how quickly my life takes an unexpected (often positive!) turn. I’ve found I feel so much lighter when I’m not sticking to a plan.
I Don’t Limit My Options
There are some aspects of planning my life that are unavoidable — hello, retirement savings plan! But for the most part, my plans used to limit me from pursuing really great opportunities. When I was 12 years old, I picked up a copy of Vogue and that was it — I knew I wanted to be a magazine editor. From that point forward every extracurricular, class, and as much of my free time as possible was all centered around helping me reach that goal.
Fast forward through countless hours studying designers and photographers, taking French classes, and racking up internships, and I was ready to graduate. Unfortunately, around the time I was graduating college, the magazine industry was falling to pieces. Suddenly I needed to find a new path, and I needed to do it fast. I had been so focused on my goals that I hadn’t opened myself up to the possibility of another career path.
Now that I have less tunnel vision I can see that I would have loved to study other subjects like public health or biological anthropology. Of course, I still have passions and career goals, but I try to keep an open mind by reading, learning, and trying my hand at new subjects. When opportunities come along that aren’t exactly what I was looking for, I try to imagine how I could grow in them. I’ve greatly enjoyed working in marketing, the financial industry, and writing about topics ranging from fashion (the OG goal) to food to health.
I Try New Things
I’ve always known what I like — I have particular tastes and interests and have always been happy sticking to them. Or so I thought. When I switched to a vegan diet and was forced to be more adventurous with my culinary choices, I was surprised at how many foods I suddenly liked. Basically overnight I became a veggie, lentil, and tofu lover. Who would’ve thought?
This year when my fiancé had an opportunity to go to Stockholm for work, I tagged along. Sweden wasn’t on either of our travel bucket lists and we almost cut our visit short to stop by Paris (our favorite city) for a few days. I’m so glad we didn’t, because as much as I will always love Paris, I adored Stockholm just as much. We had the best time on our trip and even though Paris sounded more familiar and easier, stepping out of our comfort zone created unforgettable memories and widened our travel horizons forever.
Last year I moved across the country for three months, explored the streets of New York City alone and learned how to paddle board, rock climb, and practice archery — none of which I planned or expected! I might even skip writing resolutions this year in favor of waiting to see what 2019 has in store for me.