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You Live the Surprise Results of Old Plans

The other day I was browsing the work of artist Jenny Holzer online. Some of Holzer’s most well-known works and some of my personal favorites are those that come from her series “Truisms.” Truisms is basically a compilation of off-kilter aphorisms created by Holzer, which she has plastered on walls, LED light displays, banners in the sky, and more over the years. Holzer is an artist I’ve admired for years and I find myself coming back to her portfolio time and time again when I’m in need of comfort, inspiration, laughter, etc. On this particular day, I needed comfort.

Holzer is so prolific and her body of work is so extensive that I always feel as though I discover more of her art every time I search up her name. This search, I stumbled upon a metal plaque Holzer made as part of Truisms that reads “You are living the surprise results of old plans.” 

These words struck a chord with me, as I am currently grieving plans that did not turn out in the way I’d hoped. Right now, or any time an outcome disappoints me, it’s quite easy for me to adopt a mindset of tunnel vision in which I cannot focus on anything else and believe that I will feel awful forever. Whether it be receiving a failing grade on an exam I’d studied day and night for, having an important application rejected or even dealing with a breakup, it always feels like the end of the world in the heat of the moment. Sometimes, it feels like the end of the world for days or weeks after. But, time passes, and I start caring about and stressing over new things. I come to find that the world has carried on when I’m making new plans, experiencing good days again and leaving my previous worries in the past. I progress. Yet, I always find myself facing a new (what feels like) setback eventually and then have to deal with all the feelings that accompany it. 

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In a perfect world, everything in life would go according to plan. But it’s not a perfect world. While I always wish it would, life also does not project constant sunshine. There are rainbows, but first comes a storm. So life is high and life is low. That’s just how life is, for better or worse; Like the plaque reads, we are, in fact, constantly being surprised by the development and conclusion of our old plans. 

This view could be seen as pessimistic, but in analyzing and pondering this pattern pragmatically, I’m beginning to find peace in adversity. I’m accepting that I cannot control the end result, so I’m letting go of my desire for control. The reality is that I’ll see comparably hard days again. Some of the hardest days of my life are yet to come. Simultaneously, I find solace in knowing that I’ll see even better days again. It’s not all bad because some of the best days of my life are yet to come—the ones that mellow out the lows, the ones that make me regret ever taking my life for granted, the ones that make life worth living. In this way, life goes on, surprise after surprise. To put it simply, in the end, all we're left with is the opportunity to decide how we should handle these surprises and what choices we'll make next.

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Malachi Snyder

Notre Dame '23

Hello! I'm from Dallas, Texas and currently majoring in Psychology and Studio Art at Notre Dame. People usually ask me about my name ... I am one of five kids all with biblical names. What can I say? I guess my parents were just really uncreative?! When I'm not writing, I'm usually binge-watching TikTok (no shame), listening to music, and/or painting.
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