In my dreams, I am enshrouded in a cap and gown, waiting for the instant my life will change forever. I am gripping a dangling tassel, poised for the moment I can move it, the moment I can call myself a law school graduate. I am successfully taking the Bar exam, conquering the grueling test with every tap on the keyboard. I am obtaining the exam results, gasping at the news that at last, I am an attorney and preparing to pop the champagne. In my dreams, I will have graduated law school and passed the Bar exam 4 years from now.
Then, reality sets in. I know that 4 years from now, I will not be receiving my Bar exam results. I will not have graduated law school. In the depths of my heart, I know it is the wrong time for me to apply to law school. I have to delay law school further if I truly care about my well-being.
My college graduation cap read “She turned her dreams into plans” in large, silver, sparkly letters. I am a firm believer in 5-year plans, 10-year plans, all types of plans… and always following through. Why would I make a decision that would completely derail my plans?
One day, I was jolted awake from the pervasive dream I had been chasing for years. In a single day, I was forced to confront a harsh truth: I could choose to work tirelessly on law school applications and study for the LSAT for hours, but I am not ready for law school. The process of applying to and preparing for law school had been causing me undue stress. Additionally, I am a still-reforming perfectionist, and I realized that the cutthroat, competitive nature of law school could reignite my perfectionistic tendencies and prove detrimental to my health. If I truly cared about myself, I would apply only when I felt ready, when the time felt right.
The realization hit me starkly, sharply, piercing my soul, leaving me breathless. I was left shaking and sobbing; my entire body wracked with internal pain over an uncertain future, the loss of my plan. I was drowning in my thoughts; attempting to draw myself back into the unshattered world I had inhabited just moments before, failing to restore peace with my decision. Why do I have to sacrifice another year of my life? What if I can never become an attorney? Why me? I was angry at myself for not being able to achieve the goal I had held for years in the timeframe I had planned. I was convinced the soul-crushing, defeating pain I felt would never subside. I was positive that as long as I followed this new, unpaved path, I would continue to wallow in misery.
Day by day, week by week, I began to view the new path I was treading with a renewed sense of purpose. Self-hatred slowly turned to quiet resignation, which blossomed into acceptance of my circumstances, my capabilities, and myself. Occasionally, a flicker of sadness would wash over me as sudden thoughts of my friends preparing to enter graduate school, medical school, and law school entered my mind, but my mourning turned to celebration as I realized that I had the freedom to accomplish anything during my wait for law school. I am unformed, with nearly unlimited possibilities and infinite potential to achieve my dreams. In deciding to eschew the beaten path and traverse my own, I am stepping into a future of hope and happiness.
At some point in your life, the plans you painstakingly laid out may not come to fruition. You may need to make decisions that will defy convention or disrupt the path for your life, but as long as you act in your own best interest, the decision to change your plans will leave you fulfilled. At times, you will feel tempted by flashier, more alluring plans for your future, which may not suit you. At times, you will wonder if changing direction, following the sharp twists, turns, and bends in your life journey will be worth it in the end. At times, you will mourn the loss of your plans, wistfully wondering what could have been had you not strayed from your original path. However, as long as you are willing to seek out the positive aspects of your new plans, you will arrive at a place of acceptance.
By remaining at the forefront of your decisions and prioritizing your overall well-being over your immediate desires, you will gain an open mind, a deepened sense of self, and a renewed hope for the future. You will transcend your fear of the unknown and enter the future with confidence. You will flourish. Following your own path can breed frustration as you learn to cope with an uncertain future, but it will provide you with invaluable insight, clarity, and a renewed sense of purpose in life. Always listen to yourself first and remain open to changing your plans. Follow your own path, today, tomorrow, and forever.