Here at Elon University, we love plans. We enter appointments, classes and even social events into our Google Calendars religiously, we freak out over our four-year plans when we’re just freshmen and we schedule our classes to work around other pre-scheduled things. If these carefully drawn-out plans change, we of course get stressed, and some of us often feel like our lives are falling apart. Dramatic, yes, but still the reality for so many of us who are wrapped in this pervasive culture of schedules.
It might be scary to say it, but it’s OK if you do not have a plan. It is OK to be unsure. And honestly, it’s OK to be a bit of a mess.
When I was in high school, I was set on being a music major. I thought I was going to go to school in Nashville, be a songwriter and live out my lifelong dream of writing songs and performing. At 16, I thought this dream was my entire life, but as I grew and saw other opportunities, I ultimately made the decision to come to Elon, a small, private liberal arts college. I came to Elon very undecided about my future, with the hopes of finding a new passion, something that gave me the same rush that music once did.
But, once I got here, I would face other problems I didn’t consider, leading me to feel more helpless and without a future than I thought I would.
If I’m being honest, when I was a freshman at Elon, I didn’t think I was going to graduate. Being a freshman here brought up parts of my own mental illness that had not surfaced before, leading me to unhealthy coping mechanisms that distracted from my life here. After seeing my family in October of that year, my parents wondered if they should withdraw me from Elon for a year. The thought of leaving Elon terrified me because I was too scared to compromise my neatly crafted plan.
At that point in my life, I couldn’t see my future beyond the next day. I was a mess: unhappy, unfulfilled and unmotivated. I didn’t think I was going to graduate because I could only see the life I had then. I went from over-planning to having no plan at all, and the uncertainty in my future made being here so hard. I went from thinking I was going to be a strategic communications major to a journalism major to a policy studies major and now ending up with a job in strategic communications. Some of the friends I once thought I was going to take my graduation photos with I don’t speak to anymore. My four-year plan didn’t pan out the way I thought it would, both academically and emotionally, but I made it.
Now, I am graduating from Elon with an incredible job I wouldn’t have dreamed of having back then. My plans changed, I didn’t get here in the most perfect way, but I got here, and I am immensely proud that I did. So if you are an underclassman struggling right now, maybe you’re not getting the grade you thought you would, your social life is harder than imagined or you’re not loving your major as much as you wanted, that’s OK. It’s OK to stray away from the plan.
And to my seniors, I promise it is still OK if you do no have a plan. It is OK to be unsure.
As cliche as it inevitably sounds, graduating from college means closing a chapter in our lives, one that was filled with schedules and routines. As we embark on this next chapter, our plans may not always be so clear. We are going to need to adapt to new environments, new friendships and new experiences. All of this feels so scary right now, and it’s natural to be worried about not If you don’t have a job or housing or friends in the city that you will be moving to, it is all going to be OK.
You are not always going to adhere to the plan you set up for yourself. You are not always going to be perfect. The path to your goals or dreams may be messy and uncertain, but you will get there. As we graduate this weekend, please remember that no matter how much you may schedule and plan, our lives may end up differently. Embrace that uncertainty.