You have it all figured out. You know exactly what you want to do in life, and you have a plan: major, minor, internships, summer abroad. You’re a hard worker, so you know you can do it, and you’re so excited to live the life you’ve always dreamed about. College is going to be great, you think. A stepping stone into your perfect future—what could be better?
But then something changes.
Suddenly, you’re not so sure that your perfect plan really is that perfect. Maybe you don’t enjoy the classes you’re taking as much as you expected. Maybe you’ve found a new passion, and you don’t know how it fits into your plan. Maybe something’s just different, and you don’t know how or why. In any case, you’re overwhelmed, scared. Your perfect future is changing, and the crystal-clear glass through which you’ve been watching it is growing foggier by the day. What do you do?
Remember to breathe. Being in this situation can be frightening. It’s easy to feel out of control when previously you had nothing but control, but it’s important to remain calm and soldier on. Letting yourself become so stressed out that all you can do is wrap up in blankets and watch Law & Order for hours on end to avoid having to deal with your problems won’t resolve them or make them go away. If anything, you’ll end up feeling even more stressed out when you realize that you’ve made it through six different eras of Olivia Benson’s hair but are no closer to sorting out your own issues.
Turn off the TV, get up, and get out. Take charge. Embrace not knowing. Your old plan has become shaky and unstable ground, so it’s time to move on before you get swallowed in the cracks. Make a new plan—one that’s flexible and open to change. Sit down and take some time to think about what really drives you in life.
What are you passionate about? What do you love to do, and what do you hate? What are your hobbies, your interests? Let the answers to these questions be your guideposts as you try to navigate yourself back onto a recognizable path. Maybe you initially thought you loved biology, but after a class or two, you realized it’s not really for you—but you really enjoy creative writing. Don’t be afraid to let parts of yourself go to make room for new things, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Take that creative writing course. Take a course in Japanese or puppetry or forest management while you’re at it. Find things that drive you, and learn what doesn’t. Adjust accordingly.
In the end, remember that the future isn’t set in stone. Not having a plan—or losing a plan—doesn’t mean you’re a failure; it means you’re human. So maybe the future isn’t looking exactly how you’ve envisioned it anymore, but that’s okay. Once you accept the fact that it will change because you will change, you can open yourself up to an array of opportunities that you might not have otherwise experienced. Take advantage of any and all experiences that will broaden your horizons, because you never know where you might find yourself.