Living, not planning, after graduation

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They told me that high school would be the best four years of my life; they were wrong. They told me that college was a time of countless cups of coffee and all-nighters; they were semi-right. Now they tell me that I need to leave, that in a matter of weeks, the life that I’ve known for the past four years will vanish.

As a graduating senior, the question I have stressed over the most is, “So, what’s your plan?” When I hear this question my initial reaction is, “I don’t know.” But, do any of us really know?

Let me first say that I am a planner. I like to plan out my meals for the day, what homework I would like to accomplish during the evening and how I will spend my weekend. Four years ago, I was the person who swore by a solid plan. I planned out my college curriculum to a tee, which for the most part turned out as it was supposed to. What I did not plan for or prepare for was the amount of knowledge that I would gain from my life outside of the classroom. I had the privilege of studying in Lyon, France, for nine months in my junior year. I met people from all over the world, skied the Alps, walked through the red-light district, put my toes in the Barcelona sand and tasted gelato in Italy.

It was then that I realized how small I truly am in the midst of this crazy world. My view of the world made a complete 180 during those nine months, and for that I am grateful beyond belief.

This past March, my life took another significant turn.  I traveled to LA on an immersion trip with a group from my university’s campus ministry. Over the course of the week, we went to a juvenile hall and spent time with kids who are spending their days either sitting in a cell or participating in planned, organized and, no doubt, supervised activities. We also walked into a level-two security prison in Norco, California, and heard from men who have lived in extreme poverty and witnessed countless horrific events throughout their childhood and adult life. Did I plan for that experience?  No, but I would not trade it for anything.

I did something at that time that I encourage and challenge all of you to do. I accepted the fact that life can be uncomfortable, life can be unexpected and life is often hard. But creating a plan will not change those three facts.

On May 16, I will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication, political science and french – knock on wood. Yes, that is three majors, and yes, it is possible.  Three courses of study that, in my opinion, intersect rather well. However, these three courses of study are not accompanied by a plan of medical school, law school or even any immediate job prospects. Rather, they leave me with independence and several open-ended questions.

At some point in my life, I hope to write a few books — not just one. I hope to work as a journalist for a while and eventually find the time to craft my novel. I aspire to write a story that will make a difference, create a change and draw attention to a wrong. I dream of traveling the world and filling my mind, heart and soul with as much knowledge and wisdom as they can handle. So as you can see, I have hopes, aspirations and dreams, but no plans.

Many of my friends who are graduating with me in May have committed to a year of service. I chose a different route. Certainly I hope to commit to a year or several years of service at some point in my life, but I did not feel called to do so immediately upon graduation. This summer I will move back to Chicago, where I will have nothing but time, time which will be spent working as a waitress, volunteering in the city and doing what I love most — writing. I am confident that in a year or so, some element of my life will have changed, as it often does.

So with these hopes, goals and intentions, why can I not answer the infamous question about my life plan? My situation may be a bit peculiar ; however, I truly believe this rule applies to everyone, whether you are 21 or 67. My answer to anyone who is struggling to define this question for themselves is quite simple: Don’t create a plan for your life. Life is not meant to be planned; it is meant to be lived.