Falling Behind In Your Life Plan

Written by Laura Clark

University changes you. It helps you grow, challenges you, and opens you up to new perspectives. It houses some of your most vulnerable, challenging, saddening, frustrating, and energizing moments. It makes you question what you want to do and who you want to be. You experience new things, your values change, and your plan for life suddenly becomes less firm than you thought it was.

Rory gets it. Rory understands.

The funny (and infinitely irritating) thing about life is that it rarely sticks to your schedule. At least, that’s what everyone over 50 keeps telling me. If you’re someone who feels like you’re not meeting your personal timeline goals, know that you’re not alone. Everyone that I’ve met at York has shared those doubts – those moments of uncertainty that mess with your master plan. I have as well. I made it through three years of university thinking I was on track to meet my pre-university goal and then suddenly fourth year made me question everything I had ever thought was important to my academic plans. How did I logistically see theatre fitting into my life? Did I want/need a Masters degree? What were my long-term goals? Was I doing the right things to meet those goals? Did I want to stay in Toronto or live elsewhere? What was I going to be doing after graduation? Had I just wasted 4 years of schooling if I end up not pursuing theatre work? Let’s face it, it’s hard to make a living in theatre. When the reality of that hits you, it hits you hard and the panic is scary. Was I less creative or less of an artist for taking a break? Or for taking work that would pay the bills but didn’t fulfil me creatively? Those are the kinds of thoughts pounding against my skull as I pump out midterm papers like there’s no tomorrow, and as I try to decide whether I should be graduating. It can be hard to throw yourself into work if you’re not sure you’re on the right path. It doesn’t matter which phase of life you’re at, or what other life drama you’re dealing with. This feeling sucks. Big time. The worst part is that no matter what anyone tells you, you still get that gut feeling of being behind.

Sometimes it takes an objective third-party to snap the panic loop in your head. I hope that’s what happens when I say there is no set time limit or life schedule that you need to follow. Regardless of who you are, what baggage you have, or what your familial expectations are, you’re in the right place for where you need to be right now. Granted, I’m no all-knowing expert, but I rationalize against a life schedule with the argument that if it were true, I would forever be chasing after the next “thing” that is supposedly going to make me happy. Chances are, I would never reach what I perceived as “fulfillment.” Goals change. It doesn’t make sense that you must finish an old dream before moving on to a new one. Experiencing those challenges doesn’t mean that you or I have failed to achieve goals.

I like to believe that happiness comes from within, and is not gifted to me from an outside force. When I force myself into this mindset (and it can be hard sometimes), I get my own agency back. Once I accept that I am the captain of my own ship, it’s a lot easier to put aside my fears and rest in the fact that I’m where I’m supposed to be. Some people find that knowledge elsewhere: from a religious or spiritual relationship, from a philosophy, or any number of other influential forces. Challenges cause you to grow. I don’t think there’s any final destination or final check point that will suddenly allow myself to be happy with my place in life. By making myself responsible, it means that despite the challenges, surprises, and life events that may change my plan, I can still be happy. If we had all stuck to our original life plans, where would we be now?

Think back to your five-year-old self, and imagine what your life would be like if it hadn’t changed, you hadn’t grown, and your mind hadn’t expanded to accept all that you are now. There would probably be a disproportionate number of firefighters and ballerinas in the world. There also wouldn’t be you, as you exist right now. As the years go by our values, perspectives, and goals change. So realistically, planning your life is like rolling the dice blindly in a game where you don’t know the rules. Sit back. Take a deep breath, and rest assured that you’re right where you need to be at this exact moment. You’re doing just fine.

If you think you need a little extra support, check out the Career Centre to register for workshops like, “What Can I Do With My Degree,” and book appointments like “Career Consultations.” They also host workshops for goal setting, resume building, cover letter and statement of interest writing, plus job interview prep.