My Five-Year-Plan

It starts with one friend. A status update or strategically posed-for picture via Facebook or Instagram. You blink. Suddenly, what has started with one person snowballs into an avalanche. There are hundreds of pictures of engagement rings, wedding dresses, ultrasounds, infant alien babies, the list goes on (though, not always in that order).
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And then there’s you.

You, who can barely commit to what you want for dinner, much less to a single person for the rest of your life–baby or partner otherwise. And, like, wasn’t it just yesterday that you and Suzy-What’s-Her-Face went stag at high school prom together? Now Suzy is married and seven months pregnant and you’re looking around like, “Maybe I’ll buy a goldfish.”
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Meanwhile, every family reunion or event you attend comes with one inevitable question: “So are you seeing anyone?”
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As someone who was born and mostly raised in the South, my future seemed pretty straight-forward: Graduate high school, go to college, get married, have kids, settle down. It was only until recently that I saw a tremendous flaw in what I had previously worked out to be an otherwise foolproof five-year-plan. Now, before I go on, please don’t mistake this as a letter of judgment or a self-important sermon of advice. By all means, everyone is entitled to their own choices. And I respect anyone who can, in full confidence, make those life-changing choices. These are just my own personal thoughts.

Several months ago, I made what many would call an impulsive decision to quit my job and transfer in the middle of my junior year, from a small college in the middle-of-nowhere Texas to a very large, very intimidating university in Alabama. It was one of the scariest decisions I’ve ever made, and also my first major decision as an adult (can we talk about how much being an adult sucks, btw?).
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Last week I finished up my junior year of college at my new school. Since then, I can count at least ten of friends who are my age and have recently gotten engaged and/or announced they have a baby on the way (Congrats to everyone this applies to, by the way!). According to the stereotypical initial five-year-plan, I should be among these masses. I should be in a serious relationship by this point in my life, maybe even be making concrete plans for a traditional white wedding that would inevitably come after my graduation next spring.

In reality, I remain firmly single, the most serious relationship in my life being that of my unnatural love for pizza, and maybe my eleven pound toy poodle (Truthfully, I never really know how she feels about me). And you know what? Though it has taken me a little time to realize it, I’m ok with these things, even–dare I say?–happy with them.
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I look around and I see how happy my friends who are in serious relationships are and I feel happy for them. Because that is certainly not a feat that is easily achieved. And then I look at my life. I’m twenty-one years old, almost finished with college, and…oh yeah, have, not one, but three FREAKING novels that have been published in the last two years! WHO DOES THAT?

And here’s the even crazier thing.

I’m not nearly close to where I want to be in life. I want so, so much more for myself before I finally “settle down.” I want to move to the Big Apple after I graduate and live in a swanky apartment. Eventually, I may even make it to my dream cottage in Oxford. I want to dye my hair purple (though, let’s be honest, I’m not quite that bold). I want dogs–lots of them. I want to travel. Most of all, I want to write. I want to write until my fingers fall off, from the second I wake up in the morning until the very late hours of the evening. And if somewhere along the way, I happen to meet my “soulmate” and fall in love, get married, and all that other jazz, then good for me.

Until then, I want to live my life for me, and for me alone. Call it selfish. I call it a journey of self-discovery (forgive me for the cliche). Because, in all honesty, I feel I owe it to myself to figure out who I am and what I want before I can permanently tie myself to another human being and expect them to be happy with me when I’m not even fully happy with me–yet.

There are a lot of people who would disagree with me here, people who think their lifetime of happiness revolves around another person. But I think we all owe to ourselves to see who we are apart from another person before making any life-changing decisions. So for those of you who are feeling a little behind in life because you’re one of many whose five-year-plan hasn’t quite panned out, I say embrace it. Embrace the chaos. Embrace every beautiful second of never knowing what’s coming next. Because that’s life. I think we owe it to ourselves to use these last years of young adulthood to be a little crazy, to be selfish and impulsive and adventurous. God knows they’ll be over before we know it–or so I’m told. Most of all, I think we owe it to ourselves to be happy.
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