STUDENT AND THE CITY: Is it okay not to have a plan right now?

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Student and the City is a column dedicated to asking the big questions that all college-aged students are asking. It will explore different social concepts within the younger generations regarding relationships, lifestyle, social media and more. 


If you asked me at the age of 16 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would be able to spit back my entire life schedule by the year. I would tell you that after high school graduation, I would finish my higher education in six years. I planned to be married and own a home by 24, then reluctantly move to the suburbs before having my dog and three kids by the time I was 35, like my mother and sister before me. 

However, when I entered college, my world was turned upside down and these plans vanished. 

Over the past five years, I changed my major, broke up with my long-term boyfriend, changed my graduation date, coordinated a semester abroad and got hit in the face by a global pandemic. All of the sudden, I couldn’t see the future I planned for anymore.

Being able to see our life set into a calendar gives us a sense of comfort. We know what to expect tomorrow and the day after that, and what steps we need to take to fulfill our “mission.” In this way, we seem to know all the answers. But what happens when you don’t know?

The question is: is it okay not to have a plan in your twenties?

As a college student, I am often asked, “What is your five-year plan?” In response, I often fumble together a loose idea of what I think would sound good, knowing very well there are several paths I would love to try out. I answer this way because I feel the pressure of being thrown into this big race with the other students from all around the globe. Sometimes, it’s as though there is not enough room for us all to be successful in this new world we are creating.

If you have a plan, good for you — I am envious. Having a vision of where you want to end up and how to get there is very helpful as it provides direction for what to work toward. A strategy can set you up for success — or failure, if you don’t follow it the way you thought you would. 

When I had a plan, I put myself under constant stress. I held myself accountable for staying with the proposed agenda I was dependent on and would become deeply disappointed in myself when an obstacle was thrown in my life that pushed me off track. 

I often caught myself comparing my success to others’. I didn’t want to be left behind while my peers were achieving their goals and making a life for themselves. Over the years, I have watched through social media as people my age graduate college, get married, buy houses and have babies, while I am cooped up in my childhood home happily writing for my university’s newspaper. 

I learned you can’t compare yourself to others. Everyone goes through life at their own pace. And, you can’t schedule the milestones — that’s up to fate. 

Ever since I let go of my specific plan, I have become more excited for life and the possibilities of the future. The unknown does make me nervous, but equally as thrilled for what could happen and where I could go. 

Like I spoke about in my previous article about the expectations of friendships, your life is like a book. You are only at the beginning chapters of your story. The majority of the pages are still ahead of you. And here’s the best part: you are the author. Embrace the blank pages. How do you expect yourself to predict your destiny? Where’s the excitement in an itinerary?

College is a stepping stone in this story. Your twenties are a time where you create the person you want to be. You discover your values and develop a personality that is true to you. Let go of anything that is holding you back. Is your plan holding you back? Keep your mind open to all of the changes around you. In just a few years, you will look back at the person you are now and may not even recognize them. How do you outline your future self’s life when you don’t even know them, or what they want?

While you are changing, so are your interests. You should never go blindly after one goal because you never know where life will take you. Now is the time to dabble in everything you are interested in and filter through what you like and what you don’t. Be passionate in every step and find the things that truly give you fulfillment and joy.  

As you transform, so will your plans. As you learn of new opportunities and as obstacles are thrown in your path, what you want in life is sure to change. 

For now, make small plans. Plan to be more kind to others. Schedule time to reenergize and give yourself a break. Pencil in time to dedicate to your personal growth and your current relationships. Focus your energy on the present, because a plan can blind you from the moments you should be grateful for now. 

I’m sure you’ve heard the advice: the best things in life happen when you don’t expect them to. If that is true, then take advantage of the flexibility a planless life grants you. Without a set schedule to stick to, you won’t be able to say no to opportunities that arrive. Living spontaneously gives you the chance to meet people, go places and gain experience you never would have.