Confessions of a Young Girl Pressured to Plan Her Life

Sometimes I sit down and relish in the absurdity of expecting high-school-age children to know exactly what they want to do with their entire life. Even as a college student, the pressure builds from your very first days as a freshman, when people reassure you that you have time to explore career options, to your last days as a senior, when you catch side eyes from those questioning why you don't have your master plan typed and laminated.

In my first year of college, I completed all of my general education requirements and was notified that I would graduate one year early. I was slightly uneasy with the idea, but when it comes to college credits there are no takebacks. Naturally, I did the only thing I knew to do: kept it moving. I am currently coming to terms with the idea that graduating early is not just about walking across a stage and being handed a diploma ahead of schedule. In reality, it is my one way ticket into the working world.

Every day when I wake up, the words of wisdom that my mother ingrained in me as a child rings triumphantly in my mind: “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” After catching wind from the dauntingly inspirational saying, I say my morning prayer,  jump up and start my day.

Throughout my journey, I’ve learned to embrace that I only have one life to live and no one can live it for me. Will I make mistakes? Undoubtedly. Will I learn from them and use those lessons to build personally and professionally? Absolutely. In life you have to do what you feel is best for you, and take the trials and tribulations that may happen along the way in strides. There are multiple pathways to success and you just have to find yours.

Don’t announce a plan, just to say you have a plan.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we all know that one Aunty who will approach us (as we peacefully attempt to snag some cornbread) about the status of our education and our projected path in the future. If you have an idea of what you want to do but nothing is set in stone, you may be tempted to blurt out the most impressive (extremely specific) game-plan you can conjure up before you slide to the end of the table for some mac and cheese. Take it from me, don't. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you may have changed your major or are currently exploring your options. You will undoubtedly sound more confident talking about the many things you are currently considering, instead of speaking on a plan that you are unsure of yourself. Even still, family is family. You do not need to project an imaginary career focus to impress people who will be proud of you regardless of what you choose to do.

Even if time is not on your side, you have to embrace that all good things happen one step at a time.

No matter what stage of life you are in, there will come a time where it becomes abundantly clear that you can’t skip steps when working towards success. I have put pressure on myself to excel at whatever I do before I was old enough to be consciously aware of it. Even as I near the time that I will enter the working world I realize that if I allow my focus to drift from my goals to the idea of making the transition, then I am more susceptible to lose sight of my end goal. In my eyes, putting your energy into the incremental phases of your journey is one of the most important elements to consider when trying to propel yourself into the next stage of your life. When you gather each piece of a puzzle, the bigger picture becomes much clearer.

They believe in me, maybe I should too.

Having a solid support system can oftentimes be the difference between hurdling through tough times and taking the backseat in your own life. Even on your worst days, there are people in your life that can lift you up, get you through it, and remind you that it will all be ok.

I have to admit, the desire to make my mother proud and prove my supporters right has led to a few restless nights. Having loved ones hit me with constant reminders that “I am destined for greatness” tended to cloud me further. Sometimes I want to reply “How will I conquer the world? Please submit your response in a three page essay in MLA Format.” But, instead I say thank you with a shy smile and add a tally to my weighted worries.

The only remedy that has been working for me as I tackle this issue is understanding that in order to make any progress, I have to believe in myself. In my personal experience, maintaining a sense of certainty in my future stems from my faith and my TRIBE.

Life is not about a career.

I "was a lawyer" before I had enough teeth to pronounce it properly. I grew up accepting the idea of attending a university for a set amount of years then diving into an additional exhilarating number of years at another university (and so forth), in pursuit of a life (or career) that I am still considering. However, one thing that I am sure of is that I want a life. A living experience that goes beyond my salary and my zip code. It is easy to become consumed with chasing your dream career and forgetting about the other elements that you desire to be truly happy. As the child of a single mother, I stand behind the importance of finding your passion, formulating career aspiration, being financially independent and working toward set goals. However, I also think it is important to acknowledge that those elements are only a fraction of life’s bigger picture. In my eyes, mapping out the things that you may want to accomplish besides your career, in many cases, can be the difference between waking up one day and wondering where the time has gone.

Tomorrow is not promised, enjoy today.

Often times, I stress about my stress. Although I am not afraid to admit it, sometimes I seriously consider how I am affecting my health in the long run. The truth of the matter is, many of the things that people deem detrimental today may not hold precedence years down the line. It is too easy to miss out on life's little joys because you are constantly thinking about the “next thing.” Although it is good to be prepared for the future, it is not worth hindering your quality of life in the present. Take the time to conquer your time oriented goals, but don't forget to savor the moments in between.