Digging up pictures for #MeAt20 challenge was a lot of fun. It took me down the memory lane, and then got me thinking – I had some serious plans for myself when I was 20. Life plans. Love plans. Lots of plans. Then life happened and plans adjusted. Fast forward 11 years, #MeAt20 trends, and it made me think about those plans. And then I wondered, how much of what I set out to achieve did I actually achieve? Have I grown up to the person that I had hoped to become?
The answer is complicated. It also made me realise that I haven’t made life plans in a long time, because the ones that I had at 20 were invalid by 21, and replaced with something better by 23. So, what’s the point? But it’s never as simple as that.
Let me explain. The profession that I aspired for at 20, print journalism, became almost redundant by the time I was 26. My dream was a sinking boat, so I hopped around, managed to find fulfilment in PR and brand management, and continued with my first love, journalism, via Cherry Cross. Not the plan from when I was 20, but equally solid.
In the same time, I suffered through the worst of heartache and also experienced that toe-curling, soul warming, straight-out-of-romance-novel kind of love. At 20, I didn’t envision myself married by 24, but I was. I wouldn’t rest until my parents agreed. I was in love.
Also, my idea of love at 20 was toxic and destructive, and that made it difficult for me to make peace with what I had. I looked for drama, I created it when I couldn’t find some, until I realised that love doesn’t have to be dramatic or turbulent. Passion can exist with burning the house down. The 20-year old me took life lessons from historical romance novels, and based her love life projections accordingly. What I thought I needed was exactly what I couldn’t live with, and I learnt that only after I found love that was peaceful and accepting. No drama. My younger self couldn’t have predicted or planned as she didn’t know about that kind of love.
I knew that I would eventually move out of Pakistan but never expected Dubai to become home so fast. Moreover, if, at 20, someone had told me that I would be living in Germany a few years later, I would have rolled my eyes. That was not the plan. I didn’t have a plan for where I would live, but it was definitely not Germany. Then, one fine November, I came here for a holiday, fell in love with rusty leaves and erratic rainfall, and the rest is history. Again, not even close to the plans from when I was 20.
When I was younger, I had aggression of a bulldog, and temperament of dessert sand. I reacted too soon and too much. I didn’t understand the value of loyalty. My rage had blinded me one too many times, consequently hurting me and my loved ones gravely. I remember smashing a glass under my palm after a row with my parents, and the only time in 31 years that dad and I had a ‘conversation’, one on one. My emotions ran wild. I ran wild. At 20, I had hoped to calm down as I grew older, And that box has been checked. Thank heavens.
Can you tell what the problem is yet?
It’s that that I thought my plans at 20 would and should be valid for the next two decades. That girl at 20 had very little life experience and her horizon was rather limited. If all of her ill-informed plans had actually materialised, she would have been MISERABLE today. Life and my choices led me to a path that I couldn’t have planned for, and that is exactly how it should be. If a life can be figured out and planned to the T by a 20-year old, that life would be rather limited and boring, and full of missed opportunities and adventures.
So, after life steamrolled my first 50 plans, I stopped making a bazillion of them. I stopped trying to control every part of my day and life, and made room for surprises. I still have a few plans, three to be precise, and they offer direction more than directive to my life and actions.
I have come to accept that life can be and is generous. It might also turn out different from what I have planned, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If I were today where I had hoped to be when I was 20, I wouldn’t have stories worth sharing. If I were the person I had hoped to become, I would never have learnt to love so absolutely, treasure family, and let go of what doesn’t belong.
Someone said to me that it is frustrating to keep up with changing plans, trying to bring together what you have and what you want, and I couldn’t agree more. It is. But if you are young, and feel a bit beaten down because your plans didn’t come through, or if you realise that the aim was rather low and you have made it there already, listen to me – it’s OKAY. It is 100% okay. Feel frustrated, and then regroup. Constantly updating life plans is actually the only plan I can recommend.
Making plans for your life is great, but equally important is to remain flexible to adapt when the set course alters without much notice. Because like it or not, at least parts of your plan will be trashed. Or, like me, at 30, you will realise that you have ticked most of what you wanted off the list, and need a whole new plan, in accordance with current life situation and upgraded aspirations. Fun times!