JONATHAN CARROLL | OPINION COLUMNIST
Any college student should be all too familiar with that dreaded line of questioning: “Oh, what are you studying in college? And what do you hope to do with that degree?” Even for those of us who have postgraduate plans, the questions are near-inevitable and become rather tedious within only a few repetitions. For those of us who have to answer with a resigned, “I don’t really know,” the questions are a torturous reminder that we still need to come up with a feasible plan for the rest of our lives. But do we REALLY need a plan?
I want to start by not letting anyone off the hook: yes, you want a plan. Please don’t try to approach your life by just hoping that good things will seek you out and fall into your lap. That being said, don’t commit yourself to a plan, either. Be wary of the way that life tends not to take heed to what you want to happen. Others aren’t necessarily going to be too concerned about what you want to happen, either. Sometimes you plan for something and it turns out; sometimes you plan for something and nothing goes your way. It’s great to have a plan for guidance, but just let the plan be your guide, not your life. Trying to draw reasons out of the unforeseeable events that befall you might help you better plan for the next event, but the reality is that life is still going to care just as little for what you WANT to happen. Thus, there are no guarantees, no matter how well you plan or “learn from your mistakes,” that you’ll get what you want. From this, then, it’s better to simply let things go when they don’t go your way, rather than clinging to them in despair. It’s better not to commit to a plan, and simply have one in mind with which to approach the future.
The truth is, life goes on. And I mean that more meaningfully than a simple, uplifting quote. Really, the life you’re living goes on beyond what your plans are and whether they come to fruition or not. The moral, then, is not to become caught up in the plans, but in your life. If you have a plan for what you want to do with your life, then great! But if that doesn’t come to pass, there’s no need to get discouraged—you still have your life, and, just as you had one dream, so too can you forge another and see if that pans out. The pursuit of dreams is important. Dreams inspire our lives; they’re the flavoring that make life exciting. And yet there’s never really only one good flavor. Rather, there are plenty to choose from, and, just the same, losing one—although disappointing—need not be the end of the world. So yes, plan and succeed, but also fail. But, more importantly, keep on living your life. And if someone asks, “What’s your plan?” you can tell him or her that you’re looking to become a doctor, or a geologist, or whatever the case may be… but you’re just excited to see what life has to offer!