I’ve always had a type-A personality, and I can safely say I have always had a plan – a plan for my life, that is. I’ve made lists of goals and had the one, five and 10-year plans. When I was 21, I thought I knew exactly what my life would look like at 24 (suffice it to say my life does not look like what I had planned for) and I spent the next two years chasing those goals.
I imagined a life at 24 years old that had me living in a big city, living paycheck-to-paycheck while I forged my way in the world as an aspiring young journalist. I pictured myself in a serious relationship, one where both myself and my S.O. are taking on the world together, side-by-side, day-by-day. I thought I would spend Friday and Saturday nights out in the city, being the epitome of a young twentysomething living her life to the fullest with her friends.
In other words, I think I imagined my life would look something like an episode of Girls.
But life has a funny way of taking your plans and turning them upside down. 2014 has been a year full of me learning to sit back and exercise patience. Now that we’ve reached December and I’ve had the chance to reflect on the year as a whole I can see the biggest lesson I needed to learn: when you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch you.
I’ve never been one to believe or endorse clichés, but if there ever was one that was true, it would be that one. It’s not about chasing the wrong boy or the wrong job; it’s about being set on one specific plan and not being open to where life can – and will – take you. When I realized I was chasing the wrong life, a world of opportunities opened up for me. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned since then:
1. Happiness is not something you can catch. If you spend all of your time chasing this concept of happiness, you will never know what it truly feels like. When I stopped focusing on finding happiness and started focusing on doing what makes me happy instead, I eventually realized how content I am with my life.
2. A boy is a boy is a boy – until you meet the man worth pursuing. I spent month after month in 2014 pursuing the wrong guys. I spent several weeks this fall chasing a guy who was particularly wrong for me, and the moment I stopped chasing him was the exact moment someone better, someone worth chasing, walked into my life. Whether or not it works out in the long run isn’t important. What’s important is that when you meet a man worth pursuing, you’ll finally see the standard and how you should be treated by someone else in a potential relationship.
3. When you stop forcing yourself into a set career path, you leave yourself open to finding your true passion. In college, I “knew” journalism was my calling. I was good at it, and I was going to be a great reporter and writer one day. While that’s a fantastic plan, none of the journalism jobs I applied for earlier this year seemed like the right fit. I chose to enroll in a graduate program instead, using it as an excuse to have two more years before I needed to find a “real job.” Now, as a teaching assistant and graduate student at a prestigious university, I’ve found my true passion in teaching and working with college students.
4. Self-worth isn’t found in a smaller number on the scale, more friends, better grades, or money. It’s cliché, but when I realized that working my ass off to be skinnier wasn’t going to make me feel like I was worth more, that more friends in a new town wasn’t going to make me confident, that my grades don’t define me, and that money isn’t the end-all, be-all – along with a thousand other tiny details about my life that I was seeking perfection with – it left me in a place to realize how much I am worth and how amazing I am.
My life is far from perfect and while I still have a lot of goals I’d like to achieve and plans to fulfill, I’ve learned that sometimes the best plan to have is just to be open to where life is going to take you. It could lead to some of the best days of your life.