“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans” – Allen Saunders–
I can’t say enough just how much this quote rings true for me.
You see, I’m what you’d call a Type-A personality; self-critical, competitive, strong sense of time urgency and generally impatient. If I show up to an appointment at exactly the time the appointment was for, I consider myself late and probably had a bead of sweat and an elevated heart rate the whole car ride there.
Ok, ok. I know I didn’t just paint the best picture of us type A’s but there are definitely some great positives to us! We are great multi-taskers, we tend to work well under pressure and we love to Get. Shit. Done. We are highly organized and to-do lists are our idea of foreplay. We respond well to timelines and we like to plan out the details. But alas, it is these last two traits that caused me a lot of stress and anxiety in my twenties and nearly cost me my relationship with my boyfriend.
For most of us, we begin to picture our futures from a very young age. At some point, we were all asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, a question that had responses ranging from adorably ridiculous (space cowboy, anyone?) to realistically ambitious. As we got older and wiser, our responses changed based on what we liked, what we excelled in, and (as we really grew wiser) what could make us the biggest salary. Society does a good job of encouraging this constant need to think about tomorrow, next month, next year and so on.
So we need a plan…
Several, in fact!
We need a short-term plan, a long-term plan, a game plan, an action plan, a back-up plan, a retirement plan, the list goes on. I would agree that many of these plans just make good sense and allow us to think about and prepare for our futures and goals. How does one go on a trip or buy a house without a little planning first? I get it.
So when does this become a problem? For me, it was when the plan became more important than the journey. I stopped knowing how to enjoy life, live in the moment and be thankful for what I had right then and there.
As the quote alluded, my life was passing me by and I was too busy figuring out how to carry out my life plan to notice that tomorrow was turning into yesterday at a faster and faster pace.
Enter social media…
Ahh, yes! The beautiful masterpiece that keeps us all connected and the horrible monster that has us constantly comparing our lives to others. It reminds us that while our friends are buying houses, planning weddings and sporting baby bumps, some of us are still trying to figure out what what want out of life, who we want to become and maybe calling our moms to ask if the expiration date on our yogurt is negotiable.
How can we not compare ourselves when social media can be so in-your-face? It’s so easy to feel like we’re falling behind in life so we feel a constant need to catch up. We feel like we’re failing or that our life simply isn’t “measuring up” to those on our newsfeed. For me, these feelings became consuming.
A is for Anxiety…
So, naturally, I thought I could negate these feelings of mounting pressure by focusing on my plans more than ever to try to make them come to fruition. Did I want to be married? Yes! So how would I do this? By relentlessly badgering my boyfriend about marriage, of course! And what about babies? I wanted ALL the babies, so naturally I made sure to remind him of this as well! What could be sexier than looking like a man-trap with baby fever?!
As you can imagine, this put intense strain on us and even caused a couple “pauses” in our relationship as I thought I was wasting time with the wrong guy who didn’t share my EXACT plan and timeline. It was starting to get ridiculous.
The growing mental health issues in the form of anxiety and depression were mounting. Especially the anxiety. They say those with anxiety are living in the future, and boy they’re not wrong! My mind was a constant loop of self-sabotage, convincing myself that my current life wasn’t good enough and that anything that got in my way was just a waste of time. My brain was spinning out of control.
How much was I willing to give up for a life that may not even turn out to make me happy?? And what is happiness anyway? Is it a destination we arrive at? A perfect scenario where you have everything you’ve ever envisioned? Is that even a thing??
Learning to let go…
I did the only thing I could do in the situation: I let go of the “plan”.
I let go of timelines, of checkpoints, of comparing myself to anything that I thought would validate my current life situation and I said, flat out, screw it. After that, I decided to just take one day at a time and started saying “Whatever happens, happens.”
And so what happened? Day by day, little by little, my stress eased up. The tension I was carrying around both mentally and physically lessened. The impact it had on my relationship was by far the most significant. My rekindled relationship became more natural and organic. We began to just enjoy each other and value the things that attracted us to one another in the first place. It was so easy, so carefree and it felt amazing!
I can’t stress enough how liberating and empowering it is to just let go sometimes! Have a little faith that things will work out. I know, it’s terribly cliche to say something like that, but it’s incredibly true. The relief I felt when I made this decision was incredible. And ironically, letting go of some of that “control” I thought I had on my future actually made me feel much more in control of my life. The truth is that so much of our futures are beyond our control, and that’s a beautiful, exciting thing! I don’t want to know every little detail about my future…how predictably boring life would be if that were the case??
As humans, we are resilient and adaptive. Look at how many people came to be huge successes against the odds, or those who will tell you they never imagined they’d end up where they are in life given what they pictured five, ten, even twenty years ago.
Talk to people, listen to their stories. It is a rare person who is exactly where they planned to be from the beginning.
Plans change, life changes. Take things as they come and make the most from what you have today.
Now that I’m starting my education over, people often ask me what I want to do once I’m done. The answer is that I have no effing clue, and I couldn’t be more excited to find out along the way!
Thanks for reading,
Kortny with a K ♥