I am a planner. I plan parties, events, vacations, and my life. I always like to know what the next step is.
Before I graduated college, I had a plan. I had my resume-building internship and professional associations planned. I knew the career I wanted. I could see myself in five years, being an executive at a top advertising agency, continuing my residency in New York City indefinitely.
Well, I followed my plan. I got a great job, moved to my own studio, and lived the life I dreamt of. The first six months were great. I had already been living in the city for three years, so I knew it well. I partied, I built relationships, and I excelled at my job. I received so many awesome perks from work that I felt like a VIP everywhere I went.
Then things changed. I wasn’t having the best time at my job. I started working later and later, and sometimes on weekends. The management was frustrating. The stress was physically affecting me. I was recruited to a different agency, one that promised to be better. And it was better, but the stress came back and I started spending nearly 12 hours a day at the office. I didn’t enjoy my job anymore. I started thinking of ways out.
I researched graduate schools to change my career and thought of other options to get out quickly. I had a plan. I knew what to do. Everything would fall into place accordingly.
But then something happened I wasn’t expecting: I fell in love I fell in love with a Marine Corps Officer who was stationed in San Diego and about to deploy to Iraq for eight months.
Whoa, this was NOT in the plan.
A few months into his deployment, we made a huge decision. I was going to leave everything I knew, everything I planned, and move to San Diego for the last year of his contract.
I consider myself a pretty good decision maker, and I labelled this decision “spontaneously practical.” It sure was spontaneous and emotional, but I also created logic around it. I wanted to change my career and I didn’t see my move affecting that. But I also wanted to see what this relationship was all about. I didn’t want to risk losing it.
So I went, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. My boyfriend and I had the best time together in a wonderful city.
But remember, I still had a plan. Graduate school. And I followed my plan, only applying to schools on the East Coast. So when I got into school in DC, my first-choice school I had decided last-minute to apply to, there was no question that I would go.
So, after a year in San Diego, we drove cross country to Old Town Alexandria, where we lived for the next year while I did an accelerated master’s degree program.
What was next? Guess what? Back to New York City. Full circle. It was my boyfriend’s turn to go back to school.
While in graduate school, I assumed I would become a management consultant, as I was studying Organizational Management. But when I graduated, I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t put myself back into the corporate life that physically hurt my body with all of the stress. I was determined to make a change in the way corporations operated though and even stated in my application essay that I wanted to start my own business. So I did.
And here I am, working on two businesses, working harder than I ever have before, without becoming physically ill. I know this is what I’m meant to do. I always wanted to do it, but I took a few detours on my way there. I believe that if I stayed in New York City, I would have stayed in a miserable job and continued to work my way up the ladder that I didn’t want to be on. I also wonder what would have happened if I applied to schools on the West Coast, never moving back East.
Moving to a few different cities made me grow up. Moving made me understand who I am. Moving made my relationship stronger.
It’s okay to have plans. Hell, it’s necessary to have plans for many things in life. But don’t let your plans get in the way of your life. Be open to a new road. It’s the only way to keep growing.
I learned from every experience, good and bad. I can honestly say I don’t have a plan now. I have ideas and dreams that I will act on but I’m open to what else is out there.
Have a vision, but don’t plan every step of the way there. Something is bound to change, and it may be the best thing that ever happened to you.
Diana Antholis is the founder of Enter: Adulthood, an online guide for young adults that shares advice and tips on career, relationship, and personal life choices to transition into the “real world.” Follow her on Twitter (@dianaantholis) and Facebook and read more about her here.
If you are interested in contributing to the Quarterlife Crisis series feel free to contact me.