It’s fair to say that I’ve always been quite the perfectionist. Aside from OCD making me feel unaccomplished if I don’t have precise plans for everything, I’ve needed planning since a young age. A few of my friendships haven’t worked out because I couldn’t accommodate the last-minute schedules these friends would make, and we stopped spending time together. Don’t get me wrong, I love spontaneous adventures here and there, but I physically cannot live my life on a last-minute routine.
In the sixth grade, I had my heart set to study law at Pepperdine University and become a personal injury lawyer. I knew the classes I wanted to take, the professors I wished to meet, and what building I wanted to live in on campus. I worked hard in middle school as if my grades back then were looked at by the admissions board. I had a pile of Pepperdine attire, toured the campus about three times, and became obsessed with the idea of calling myself a “wave.” Everyone I knew at the time was well aware that Pepperdine was my dream school; it was all I’d ever talk about in conversations.
When I got to high school, I started to research law school and quickly lost interest. My heart broke at the idea that my plan had fallen through. I no longer wanted to pursue law school or attend Pepperdine. I shocked myself and the people around me. I felt uncertain about what I wanted to do in college and where I’d even go. You may be wondering why I was thinking about college as a freshman in high school. Even though I like to have my whole life planned out, there was pressure on many of my peers and me to have a college plan at a young age. Every time we’d see our counselors, we would have to tell them if we wanted to attend a 4-year-university or a community college, what major we wanted to pursue, etc. While I didn’t want to stress myself out over the idea of college at such a young age, I was conditioned to know what I wanted to do early in life.
It wasn’t long after that I fell in love with UC San Diego. I was born and raised in San Diego, and there isn’t any other place I’d rather live. San Diego is close to the mountains, the beach, the desert, and close enough to Los Angeles to visit anytime but not close enough to inherit its cons. I wanted to study Neuroscience to become a Neurosurgeon and couldn’t wait to live in La Jolla. I applied to UCSD four years later, and I knew my essays were stellar. I was so confident in my admission that I only applied to UC San Diego; I put all of my eggs in one basket. I hung up a poster of UCSD on my wall and looked at it every day; I manifested and worked hard. However, I started to get nervous when I heard about how many rejections UCSD made in the past years, but I tried not to think about it. Not getting in was simply not part of the plan.
Fast forward to this week, six weeks into my second quarter of UCSD, more than halfway through my first year of college. Though I’m lucky this plan worked in my favor, it definitely wouldn’t happen like this every time. This week was genuinely one of the most challenging weeks yet. I stayed up until almost 6 am on Tuesday and 4 am on Wednesday. I considered pulling an all-nighter on Tuesday, but my body was yearning for sleep. You may be thinking that I stayed up late because of homework and midterms. While both of those things played a small role in my insomnia, I stayed up until morning because I was planning my future. This week I lost interest in becoming a neurosurgeon and pursuing med school; to my OCD brain, that is a nightmare. I still like neuroscience, but I needed something broader. I now want to make it to Stanford for PA school and pursue the career of a physician’s assistant in neurosurgery or dermatology. So, my new major is psychology in human health. The amount of difficult classes I now have to take is insane, but I feel that it will be worth it in the end. Even if I don’t get into Stanford, I’m willing to be flexible with my plans and have back-ups if needed. How’s that for a change?
If you’re the type of person who plans absolutely everything for years, this is your sign of becoming more accepting of unstable plans. Things can change in the blink of an eye, and you must give yourself grace when plans fall through. Maybe you didn’t get the job you wanted because you were meant for something greater. The universe has an odd way of doing what’s best for you, and it’s hard to trust the process sometimes, but it’s what must be done. My therapist (therapy is excellent if you feel like you must control everything in your life, by the way) told me something insightful a while ago: “you have to learn how to be bendable, instead of breakable.”
To the people that can relate to being an obsessive planner, our journey to learning how to be “bendy” starts now.