Planning Your Future

Lauren Engelking - March 16th 2022

So, you don't know what you want to do with the rest of your life...

And that's OK! I recently had a student that I'm mentoring ask me what the most significant piece of advice is I would give to my younger self, and this is it: you can have the perfect vision for your future, with every detail planned out, but chances are, that plan is going to change fifty times, and that's OK.

Throughout junior high, high school, and even my undergrad, I constantly found myself trying to plan out every aspect of my future down to the exact months everything was supposed to happen. As time went on, I found that plan changing, sometimes drastically. If I've learned anything from constantly planning and having my plans seemingly disintegrate as life changes, it's that you're going to figure out things as they go. Don't get me wrong, having a vision for where you want to end up and having goals of what you want to accomplish is a good thing, but it's also important not to get too hung up on everything going according to plan. If you have a dream, absolutely hang on to it and work towards it, but there may be multiple ways to accomplish this. I strongly believe there's no one "right path" for anyone. Moreso, there are infinite options available to each of us and every day, we will make choices that shape our lives and work out one way or another.

One example of this is that my whole life, I planned on going to the University of British Columbia and becoming a doctor. But when I didn't get accepted, I opted for the University of Alberta, and now I'm doing my Ph.D. in Animal Science, a career I would have never envisioned for myself ten years ago. Still, now I love every second of it and wouldn't change it for the world. Similarly, when I finished my undergrad degree, I got hung up on which school I should attend for grad school. I had the option of a few different universities, and I worried that I would ruin the career for the rest of my life if I picked the wrong one. This, of course, wasn't rational because regardless of where I went, I would still be pursuing a Master's degree, which would help me along in my career. I know that had I decided to pick another school, my life would have looked different than it does now. Still, in one way or another, it would have worked out, and I would have made the best of my situation and found success in maybe different ways than I have now, but I wouldn't have "ruined my life" as I previously feared.

My best friend's story is another instance of life not going according to plan. She originally wanted to be an astronaut, but after discovering her love for biological sciences and her discomfort of being in confined spaces (i.e. a spaceship), she decided to pursue a bio degree with hopes of becoming a physiotherapist. However, as she worked her way through these courses, she found while she still had a love for bio, it wasn't what she ultimately dreamed of. So, despite having all the credits she needed to graduate, she took an additional semester to load up on a psychology course. These peaked her interest, and she considered a career in the psychology field. After excelling in her courses, my best friend graduated and quickly landed a job with the Mustard Seed. She has held an array of positions helping those experiencing homelessness and is currently serving alongside the Edmonton Police with homelessness-related social disorder calls. My best friend has clearly had a few changes in her life plan, but despite it all, she had worked hard, made the best out of every opportunity, and persevered even when things changed.

The bottom line is that as we go through life, the reality is that we cannot plan out every single step and every little detail of the future. We sure can try, but inevitably circumstances will change, our desires will change, and we will find a way to make the best of it.