My Unsolicited Advice: Changing Plans and Growing Through the Uncomfortable

Jul 9, 2024 | Main Blog | 0 comments

At the mere age of 17, I thought I had everything planned out. I had laid out my life like a simple invisible puzzle. I predicted every piece that would go in, where they would be placed, and exactly how they would fit.

My plan was precisely such: after graduating high school I would attend my local community college for two years. Afterward, I would transfer to Aquinas College and study elementary education, and during my junior year I would study abroad in Ireland and gallivant across Europe. After graduating college, I would be a teacher in the Grand Rapids area, rent a quaint apartment filled with lots of character and pink decor, adopt a dog AND a cat, meet someone to settle down with in my late 20s, and you know eventually actually do the settling down way after all of that.

That all sounds great, right? Clear plans were laid in chronological order. But there was so much missing in my simple puzzle of a life. I wasn’t accounting for the feelings that would be brought up, the anxiety that would develop, the people who would wander into my life, or the panic I would feel as I let some dreams fade away.

Those two years I was supposed to spend at community college became just one due to the isolating feeling that a strictly commuter campus brought me. I found myself trying to grab onto every little piece of hope and joy from that experience, but the loneliness was overwhelmingly too strong. As for that Ireland trip, well it never happened. That was a blessing in disguise because I could feel that my heart wasn’t anticipating the experience as I expected it would. That simple invisible puzzle that I had laid out was slowly losing pieces, one by one.

That partner I was supposed to meet in my late twenties walked into my life the summer before my junior year of college. I was 20 years old. Though I am not complaining (I’m the luckiest girl in the world), it just wasn’t exactly in my plans, and adding another person to a laid-out plan can be stressful for an anxious overthinker like myself. I’ve learned that is how the best things in life happen, unexpectedly; they are the pieces of the puzzle that fall right into place. Without his endless support and encouragement, I wouldn’t have had the courage to change my field of study more than halfway through college. He held me while I cried with confusion over realizing I didn’t want to be a teacher. He listened to me overthink and plan what English courses I would be taking during the rest of my college career. He held my hand (squeezed it three times) every time he saw me struggling to find the words to tell my loved ones that I was changing my mind.

Telling my friends and family that I was changing my career path was even more challenging and emotionally draining than realizing it myself. Everyone had this picture in their heads of me as a successful teacher, and of course, I appreciate their belief in me but it was a hard picture for some people to repaint. I constantly overthought those conversations, worried others thought I was making the wrong choice and wondering what I would do with my new English major.

About 80% of college students change their majors at least once. Looking at how high that statistic is I don’t understand why I was so anxious about changing mine. Many people feel that anxiety from letting others down and a sense of self-doubt from not knowing where their future lies. For some reason, these individual changes aren’t always met with acceptance and seem taboo, and society still puts pressure on 18-year-olds to label what the rest of their lives should look like.

If I can give my unsolicited advice to anyone who feels stuck where they are right now career-wise or lost within the plethora of college degrees, it would be to keep an open mind to discover the unexpected. Because I was so narrow-minded going into college, I never gave myself the leeway needed to look down any other career paths. I never sought out other paths, fields, careers, colleges, etc. It would’ve been reassuring to have someone older and wiser grab me by my shoulders, shake me out of that dream, and remind me that I can’t plan for every part of my life. I would have appreciated more time to learn about myself and what I wanted out of life before I spent so much time, energy, and money on a career I no longer desired.

One of my best friends told me to imagine myself in 50 years looking back on my life. What do I want to remember? What do I want to accomplish? What do I want people to remember me by? Besides traveling around the world, and my current dream of being a New York Times #1 bestselling author, my only other career goal is to find true contentment in whatever I am doing. I want a job that allows me to feel accomplished and to give back to the world in some way, shape, or form. I desire a career that allows me to be a less anxious, more present wife, mother, friend, sister, and daughter. That’s what I want to look back on and know that I did, and I want to encourage those people struggling in their journeys to take that leap and do what scares them.

Many times, we unknowingly put ourselves in boxes when we find what we are comfortable doing. But sometimes the scariest and riskiest thing might be just what you need to do. I appreciate the certainty of comfort, but growth is uncomfortable. When these career changes are a little scary and uncomfortable that means that they are important. Find what scares you and do it anyway.

Instead of a puzzle where each piece fits perfectly and expectedly, life is more like a scrapbook. It’s an organized creative mess where there isn’t a definite structure or way for anything to fit. Beautiful people, moments, experiences, and more pop into the picture when you’d least expect it, and luckily you can grab some glue and add them right to the page.

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Maddie Bocian

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