When You Still Don’t Know What You Want to Do with Your Life

“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” ~Unknown

Sitting at my kitchen table, I can’t help but ask myself over and over again how I got to be here. Just yesterday it seems I was sitting with my family for dinner, discussing my college plans and a future that seemed so far away from the comfortable and naïve life I always knew.

Now, I am graduating from college and embarking on the unknown journey that is “the real world” with what seems like no preparation whatsoever. Well, I wouldn’t say that. If they had beer pong tournaments or sorority trash talking in this “real world,” I would be more than prepared.

The funny thing about life is that it’s set up to always be preparing us for something.

Elementary school gets us ready for junior high school, which prepares us for high school, which prepares us for college, which prepares us for this “real world.” We are set on this path right from the start and told to follow the path to get us to where we need to be.

But what society doesn’t seem to understand is that humans aren’t designed to stick to one path. Humans are free flowing, always changing, and always moving. One moment we can be so joyful we want to start a flash mob in the middle of the train station, and the next we can be disheartened and hopeless.

Our feelings are ever changing and ever flowing, as are our thoughts, beliefs, interests, and our relationships with others.

Maybe this is why when we are told to pick a major, a job, or a career, we are ultimately faced with the hardest challenge of our life. We spent our whole lives preparing for this moment, after all. The decided fate of what we will spend our whole lives doing.

When I was faced with the big decision of picking my major and future career four years ago, I was at a standstill. I had so many interests, how was it possible to pick just one? Being the over analyzer I naturally am, I contemplated for a long time, measuring the pros and cons of each profession. I planned and thought, and planned some more.

But it was when I was on a road trip with my family to Colorado, when I had finally stopped planning and thinking, that everything made sense to me.

I was sitting in the car next to my little brother, who has autism. He is nonverbal but probably smarter than any average thirteen old; people just don’t see him how I do.

Pondering about life, as I had nothing else to do in a twenty-five-hour car ride, everything suddenly made sense.

Speech therapy, where I can help people like my brother whose intelligence is underestimated due to his autism, suddenly became my purpose. I can’t explain the feeling other than it seemed like my brother was set on this planet to be my brother and to help me find this purpose in life.

It turned out all that time contemplating my future had gone to waste, because I didn’t need to contemplate at all. I just knew, and the beauty of it all was that it came to me when I was doing absolutely nothing.

So this is where the great plan idea doesn’t quite have it right.

We spend our whole life in preparation. We don’t realize that while we're planning, we're missing out on the important things in life. While we're planning, we're missing out on the opportunities to relax and let the plan come to us.

We were missing out on valuable time spent living our lives worry-free and stress-free. Nobody needs a plan or a set path to get to where they need to be, because where you need to be is where you already are.

Being someone who is in the process of growing up, I can confidently say that I believe humans never really “grow up.” But I do believe that humans are constantly growing and changing to be the best selves they can be. People have multiple purposes in life, not just one.

So take those risks. Venture onto different paths; explore the paths that may seem far-fetched or unrealistic. Travel the world, start a business, do the things that are pulling you toward them.

I strongly believe everything happens for a reason, and if you have an instinct to do something, there is a reason for that feeling.

When you become confused about life, can’t make a decision, or are anxious about having a plan, take a deep breath and remember that life is a journey, not a destination. There is no plan required in life. The only thing required is to keep an open mind and go with the flow.

You never know what might hit you when you are relaxed and doing nothing, and what instinct will draw you to your next adventure.

It’s important to have faith in yourself and know that our internal selves are more powerful than we think.

If we can trust ourselves, knowing that we don’t need anything external to give us answers, everything will come together. Remember, you know yourself better than anyone else, even if you don’t think you do.

About Shayna Heichman

Shayna Heichman is a senior at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She grew up in Deerfield, IL and is a dancer, aspiring yogi, and travel enthusiast. She enjoys writing, though she’s a bit of an amateur. She’s going on to receive her Master’s Degree in Speech Language Pathology.

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