While preparing for college, I vividly remember planning out the next five years of my life down to the most insignificant details.
As you can guess, seven years later, absolutely nothing has turned out the way I planned.
I don’t have a novel published, I didn’t meet the love of my life on a small private school campus (that I know of). I didn’t graduate in three years, I’m not living in New York City, and if I could remember anything else from that dream of a plan, I can probably guess I was wrong about it, too.
I don’t mind that things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to. I’m happy with where I am, as of 2017 — 2010 me was naive, and that’s OK.
But there’s one unfortunate side effect of having so many good things happen that you didn’t expect.
You start to find it harder to make long-term plans.
I know that, eventually, I’d like to publish a novel the traditional way. Or get around to trying to, at least. But I haven’t made a plan. I don’t have a “when.”
I know that, at some point, I’d like to transition into some kind of editing role at my job. But I don’t know when. And I haven’t thought much about how I’m going to get there (yet).
I know I want this blog to keep growing. But I’m very bad at planning posts and things in advance.
Part of it is, honestly, because I’m afraid of being disappointed.
Don’t you want to want to take the first steps required to get that book published … but you just haven’t yet, because there’s a possibility it will never happen?
Is that what stops just some of us from making plans — or all of us?
I’m not afraid to admit I’m terrified of my dreams never coming true. Don’t get me wrong — many of them already have. But there are also plenty I’ve put to the side, unsure if I’ll ever pick them back up again.
Like my guitar. Will I ever take it out of its case again? Will I ever, finally, learn to play it?
Or my YouTube channel. It’s dead. Forever? Who knows.
It’s not that I want to spend my whole life expecting that things won’t happen. If you work hard enough, things are going to happen to you one way or the other, and they’re going to be good things — whether you dreamed of them or not.
But … what if that one thing you wanted so desperately … never happens?
You know, logically, the world won’t stop spinning. You’ll find your place, your niche, your specialty, your “thing.”
Yet that fear is always lurking around. What if I never? What if I fail (again)?
We’re writers. We’re bad at making long-term goals because we’re terrified of the future.
But we can overcome that. Sort of.
I find that writing about how I hope my life will turn out five, 10 years from now becomes less scary the more I do it. It’s not something I’m going to show anyone — it stays with me and only me. But it’s therapeutic. It shows me what could be, and what might not be — and that makes me less afraid.
Not everything is going to happen the way you want it to.
But it’s still OK to dream about where you hope you’ll end up. As long as you keep working hard for what you want, no matter how things turn out in the end.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.