People love to compare our lives to books and why not? Books are great! You pick up a novel and meet these awesome relatable characters that live awesome lives and go on awesome adventures that you could only ever dream of doing. The author tells an awesome story about this character’s life in which every part fits neatly into a little box we call chapters. When each chapter ends, it’s like a mini-conclusion to that part of their story, giving you a good spot to stop reading and to try and anticipate what’s coming next. It gives the author a chance to start fresh in that particular story and to shake things up a little.
When I graduated high school, that was a question me and my fellow graduates were often asked, “what’s the next chapter?”. It got to the point where almost all of us had a memorized and predetermined way to answer that question, one that would answer all their follow-up questions and fend off future inquiries in one swift paragraph. An answer that would ease their worries by reassuring them that we knew what we were doing. Maybe part of it was trying to reassure ourselves as well. I mean, going from our little tiny high school of only 150 students to the real world was kinda scary.
I, for one, knew exactly how to answer that question since I am a self-professed meticulous planner. I like to have everything organized down to the last detail. I don’t really like big surprises. I thrive in knowing what’s coming next. In my high school extracurriculars, that’s what I was known for, the one obsessive about planning. But, this technique never failed me. Always being one step ahead seemed to work for me. So, after I got over my indecision over what university I would be going to in the fall, knowing how successful I had previously been with my meticulous planning, I started to plan out my whole future.
Once I got to my university of choice, Memorial University of Newfoundland, with the help of academic advisors, I had my university career completely planned out. I knew what classes I would be taking in each year to get me my joint-honours degree. I had a goal number of volunteer hours in mind and extracurriculars I would like to do that would hopefully lead to me getting into the grad school of my dreams. My plan was a book I would not only be excited to read, but to live. It seemed like everything was perfectly set up for success.
Suddenly, whoever the author is of my life, was like “LOL JK, here’s a major plot twist that is going to change the course of your whole life. PS: I tore up the instruction manual on building a new plan so you’ll have to figure out how to assemble it on your own. Good luck!”.
So much for planning.
Lately, people have often been asking me what the next step is. I mean, I’ve been out of school sick for a year, I must soon be ready to head back soon right? When people ask me that, I used to answer things like “well I hope to go back to school at Memorial in the fall” or “I’m working at getting my health under control so I can go back to school” because I love everything about learning and miss school dearly. But now I give a much more honest answer that comes as a huge shock to people who know about my obsessive planning habits (a.k.a everyone): “I don’t know”.
It is the truth because I don’t know where I’m going from here. I once read that the only predictable thing about chronic illness is it’s unpredictability. The accuracy of that statement is unreal. Right now, I have no idea what my health is going to be like in 6 months or a year or 10 years. Heck, I don’t even know what my health is going to be like tomorrow! That makes it awfully hard to plan out your whole life.
This has been leading to a lot of reflection and discussion lately in which I’m trying to be really honest to myself. Is going back to school at MUN realistic? Should I transfer closer to home or to an online program? Is my future career of choice still a realistic option? Should I switch to a program that’ll give me a less physically demanding job? Nobody can answer those question for me and neither can I right now. I just really don’t know.
What I do know though is that life has a way of working itself out so that you end up at the right place at the right time. This past year (or two) of my life may have kinda sucked but it was full of tiny miracles. Had it not happened, I wouldn’t have met some of the fabulous people I have and wouldn’t be the person I am today. I’m trying to put more faith in the universe that my life will go down the path it should. This is clearly much easier said then done but I’m learning to slowly let go of the reins and just go with the flow.
No, I haven’t given up my planning habits (you’ll have to pry my beautiful Lilly Pulitzer agenda from my cold, dead hands). I am, however, learning to be more flexible. Rather than having one set path to follow, I have several. It’s quite possible that I literally have a back up plan for every plan and a back up plan for each back up plan. Despite my endless back-up plans, I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the fact those plans may in fact not pan out and that the path I end up following is one I can’t even imagine nor plan for.
To answer the question, at the moment, I have no idea what the next chapter looks like. Honestly, I don’t know if my life even has chapters. I think it may be one long monologue. Who knows. There’s so many things right now that are up in the air but there is one thing that’s for certain, I know that my next chapter, even if it doesn’t follow along with plan A or B or even with plan Z, will be awesome regardless.