It’s hard to remember a time when I wasn’t planning out my life years in advance. Having siblings that were significantly older than me always pushed me to think of what my life would be like when I grew up. I remember taking my sister to college when I was eight, and from then on I couldn’t stop thinking about how great it would be to grow up and be in college!

By the time I was a freshman in high school, I thought I had it all figured out. I was certain I would study nutrition, become a dietitian, play sports in college, and go to some really great school out of state. Seems a little ridiculous for a 14-year-old to plan out her whole life, but that’s just who I was. I liked the security of knowing what was in front of me, and I didn’t like change; so, I laid out this rigid timeline of my life in hopes that I could make it happen. It’s unbelievable how much it all has changed.

Seven years later, I’m now in the summer that approaches my senior year of college. Since my college search began way back when… I chose an in-state university to cut back on loan debt, I decided to not play sports in college after being recruited in order to pursue other interests, and I switched my major in my second year from nutrition to biology. Talk about diverging from my plan!

Now I sit here, not too long after taking my GRE exam, trying to figure out what’s next. I will admit two things to you: 1) I have no idea what I want, and 2) I’m slightly terrified and incredibly anxious. There are so many decisions to be made so that I have some sort of plan after graduating next spring. Do I want to continue school? What schools would I apply to? Should I retake my GREs? Or do I want to find a job first? Do I want to stay around home or move somewhere new? Will I even be able to find a job? I think you all get the picture. So many questions, and none of which I have the answer to. But here’s the thing, it’s OK I don’t know yet.

While I admit, I’m terrified of the unknown, the best way to conquer the fear is to embrace it. Not everyone has that sort of “go with the flow” personality, and if you’re like me, you want a plan. So I say go ahead and make a plan — but just a rough outline, something that reflects the goals you want to accomplish. (My list includes: Master’s Degree, a lot of traveling, and living in a great city.)  Now set it aside, and just let it be for a while. Life requires improvisation on the daily, and the same idea goes for long-term plans as well. A week or a month from now, you could be presented with a new opportunity that could be life-altering — and in that moment is when you need to improvise your decision and maybe adapt the timeline that your life goals are hovering over.

Not knowing what comes next in your life can be a beautiful thing. If you had asked me five years ago to describe my college career, I can assure you that I would not have predicted that I would be writing poetry and writing for an online magazine; but, I love where I’ve ended up.

By embracing uncertainty, you open yourself up to more opportunity to grow and figure out who you are. You don’t have to plan out your entire life today, and you don’t have to commit yourself to a rigid timeline. Set goals, work hard, enjoy today, and you’ll get there. It’s okay to be anxious or afraid, but it’s also okay to not be and to let life take you somewhere new and exciting. If you want something enough, you will make it happen. As Picasso once said, “Everything you can imagine is real.”

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