I hear friends tell me all the time that they need to figure their life out, make a plan, and get things going. I encourage them, but when I think of my own experiences – I laugh at their notions. Again, this is when it comes to ME. Today’s post is more “for me” than it is “for you”, but others may benefit from my current stance on this one.
I Used to Make Plans
At one point in my younger life, I wanted to be an Artist. And then I got a little older, and I wanted to be a Scientist (this was brief), and then I wanted to work in the Music Industry (not as an artist, but on the business side). From there I went on to wanting to be an English Major… and then a Marketer… and as a failsafe – an Entrepreneur (oh, little did I know).
Like many young minds, I had a schedule in my head, too. The plan was high school, college, work in a certain place. Maybe get married by a certain age, have kids at a certain point, and then buy a home at a certain price/size, yadda-yadda-yadda.
I never stopped to ask myself why, or about the pleasure that doing those activities brought to me — it was just a procedural approach that felt like it made sense based on what others had accomplished. I count myself lucky that this was all before the existence of Social Media, so I was able to live a little bit to ascertain my own thoughts on these things a little more freely vs. seeing others do a lot of things I felt like I should be doing.
Yeah, that’s a benefit of my generation that I wonder whether or not future people even have the option for anymore.
Life’s Winding Paths
As I got older, and kept working through phases of “The Plan” – I began hitting key decision points and finding that my feelings at the moment didn’t quite sync with the layout.
I pursued the art thing for years and found that I definitely preferred it as a hobby and not a profession (but it’s a skill I enjoy keeping sharp privately). I learned that real life science wasn’t what I saw in the movies (although chemistry is still amazing). I passed on an opportunity to pursue an internship at Def Jam Records because my tastes in music evolved and as I studied that industry, it just didn’t appeal to me anymore. I didn’t feel I needed an English Major to do what I wanted to do in that field (I basically just wanted to write more – never pictured myself teaching). I felt like Marketing was a little hollow after a few interning experiences – but I learned that I liked investigating things, so this brought me to fields of Marketing Research which I hadn’t considered before.
Life took me through all of these phases of what I THOUGHT I wanted in this particular area of my life, and I, fortunately, got to dabble and figure things out. Where I have landed for now in this sense blends a lot of the elements of other areas I was into before (creativity, writing, marketing, testing, etc.) and puts it into one field.
The Entrepreneur-bit is still a failsafe. To date, I’ve run 3 businesses. One was a bomb (haha), one was a nice side-hustle that I opted to stop because of the time commitment, another (very recently) literally was spun up and ready to go (from a “legal paperwork and all the other pre-requisites you could think of”-perspective) — but I just decided to stop it because I’d gotten old enough to know when my heart was in something vs. when it wasn’t. My heart wasn’t even in this one due to a number of external things at the time – so I stopped that before it even started. I was working on remnants of “The Plan” while pushing ahead in an area for no reason at that point. I realized that I wanted the Entrepreneur-stripe at the time because others had it, not because I wanted or needed it. So, I shifted my attention to earning more and investing. Who knew? That was never in my plan.
I have lived different places, and plan to move to another place in a few months. I have thought I was going to get married (only to not have that one go the distance), given up on love, and then been pleasantly surprised as to what’s still out there (more to come on that, too). I see people who are married with kids now. I know them, work with them, hang with them. And I’ve come to realize that I’d only ever pursue things like that with “the one” but I’ve also learned that I’m definitely ok (and happy as hell) without it. That used to be a requirement in my mind. I also just haven’t wanted a home — who knew? I plan to get one someday in the near future, but it’s motivated by my having grown tired of moving. That’s it – LOL
I could have gone to school at Harvard (not theoretically). I could have lived in New York. I could be in Boston right now had I taken another job offer instead of the one I decided to keep. I could still be in Kansas City, MO. I could’ve stayed the path of sole dedication to art. I could definitely be married at this point (if that were just a box I was trying to check as the old me wanted for a while). I might have done alright in the music industry. Who knows what those decisions may have brought to (or taken away from) my life?
The point being, there are a lot of “coulds” in everyone’s life based on their willingness to stick to- or adapt in- a potential plan (some people never plan, and that’s good on them to an extent) their younger selves may have made for their life. But I think wisdom brings wiggle room, which brings me to my next point.
I think “figuring out life” removes a certain level of joy and mystique about it and makes the ride a little less fun. Things are going to come up that are outside of your plan. Some like to call them distractions, I like to call them “options”.
Just because YOU set up an outline for your life when you were younger (because that’s what it really is – at best) doesn’t mean that you can’t pick and choose your own adventure based on your circumstances each day. There’s a freedom to that which I really enjoy right now.
And granted, I know that everyone doesn’t have that level of flexibility in their existence at the moment (as we get older we get more responsibilities), but that doesn’t mean that you have ZERO flexibility.
Find the wiggle room that you have been granted (or created — or taken) and wisely pursue it because we’re in the now, and are only guaranteed one go at this. Life. I mean living and loving your life.
If you believe in reincarnation, cool – but as far as I know, no one has verified it. I am not saying that it doesn’t exist, just saying that none of my deceased family members have walked up on me randomly on the street as children and told me something to let me know it’s them (if that happens one day, my mind will be blown).
You have to let yourself enjoy the ride. Take in each experience, even if it’s not part of your plan, and know that it’s adding something to the overall story of your life that you’re writing yourself. You have to allow yourself some state of removing doubt because you are where you are supposed to be, and you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
And even if you aren’t in the most knowing position right now. Even if you have no idea what comes next around the corner. Be THRILLED by the fact that you don’t KNOW what the next few decades of your life will be like. Why would you want to know that?? It sounds incredibly boring, but that’s just me.
I think too many people let their plans and what they feel like they SHOULD be doing stress them out.
My mind has been in this space for the last week or so because for the first time in a long time, I have ZERO idea what’s next for me. I am just kind of flying enjoyably in the sky at the moment and I don’t know if I’m navigating toward clear airspace or headed right into a storm.
I don’t know, but I have promised myself that I’ll embrace the journey the entire way – good or bad.
PS: In the above analogy, I’m not encouraging anyone to be too cavalier. If you’re flying, you still need to know how much fuel you have and all that. You eventually want to land somewhere, and so on. I am not saying to fly with reckless abandon so much as I’m encouraging you to enjoy the flight for what it is and maybe to look for clear skies to fly toward (vs. jumping into a storm).
Oh, that’s another comment: I’ve learned to value the bad things along with the good. Not JUST the good. It all goes into shaping your life and getting you wherever you’re constantly going.
None of us know where we’ll be in 5-years or if we’ll even be alive then (not to get morbid), so don’t ruminate too much on figuring anything out. Just live. Have as much fun as you can. Do as many things as you can that you take pride in. Positively impact those around you. Don’t let bad things keep you down long (because there WILL be bad times). And remember that whatever happens, it’s all moments that add up to a total and complete Life – not a moment that IS your Life.
I don’t know why my mind has been here lately, but it’s there in a good place. I am happy with where I am right now and what I’m doing even though it isn’t on course with any kind of plan whatsoever – and I’m honestly in no rush to make a plan. Why? Maybe an outline of “Keep a roof over your head and be happy and challenged” is enough *shrugs* I don’t know. I’m a simple guy who is rambling right now.
If you’re reading this and you feel a little bit lost or in some unplanned territory and like you need to get your life together — stop for a sec. Breathe. And unless you’re about to be unemployed, divorced, in prison, or homeless — ask yourself what you really mean by “get your life together” and WHY you feel that way. You may surprise yourself and start enjoying your life a bit more. Do what brings you joy. Do what works. Learn from what doesn’t. Be happy with/for others. Live.