As far back as my mind can remember, I’ve always known what the future would hold to a certain extent. I knew in kindergarten that first grade was right around the corner and that after senior year, I’d be going off to college for four years. Some of the details were spontaneous, but the structure—the rough outline—was always predictable. But as I’ve realized through various forms of creative outlets, my mind works better without an outline. Shot lists before filming or detailed outlines before writing a paper never help me. The planning strips me of creativity and passionate thinking. I don’t always work well with a plan.
So, as I approach my final semester of college, I am at a weird point in my life. For the first time in 17 years, I have no plan—no safety net of an outline to follow.
Relatives, friends, and neighbors are asking the all too familiar question: “What are you going to do after college?”
And I can’t blame them for asking. It really is an interesting point in anyone’s life. I mean, I ask my graduating friends the same question all the time. My stumbling response to this question forces me to face the reality of not having a plan. You’d think I’d have a well-formulated, automatic answer based on the number of times people have asked, but I still flounder every time.
This crossroads moment for a senior in college is intriguing because it finally feels like you are wrestling with a decision that’s totally unknown and unscripted. At the same time, however, that one decision will dictate every future decision, encounter, and experience for the rest of your life.
And you’ll never know if you made the right decision because you have nothing to compare it to otherwise. You can’t multiply yourself and head off into several directions just to figure out which one is best. But if I could, I would simultaneously backpack across Europe, move to California and try to get a job in film while learning to surf, join in on the hustle and bustle of New York City, blend in with the other hipsters in Portland, and live an outdoorsy life in Boulder. Then, I’d assemble my multiple selves for a debriefing of our different experiences and make a final decision. If only the world worked like that…
Wanting to multiply myself to make sure my decision is the best shows how reliant I’ve been on plans and of foreseeing the future, despite its hindrance to my own creativity. So am I pro-planning or anti-planning?
I suppose I, and all of us, need to at least be comfortable making a loose plan. The good thing about a loose plan is that it narrows in an endless amount of possibilities into a feasible list to navigate through.
The plans I’ve made throughout my life gave me the organizational skills to keep track of all of my responsibilities and independence. I can’t just abandon that part of my thinking. This winter break, I will formulate somewhat of a loose plan for what life could look like after college, but even in the process, I’ll remember to be spontaneous-ish.