Planning to Un-plan
I've always been a planner. Some might even say over-planner. In fact, my mom recently reminded me of when I was in high school and just starting to consider colleges. I was near a breakdown, insisting that I had to decide my future major in college and what career I could get from it, before I could even consider looking at schools. So my exasperated, yet somehow patient mom sat down with me and did an evening of research on majors and career paths. We even looked at job postings for entry-level jobs I could apply to after graduation. “I don't know how to do some of these things mom. I can't do this!” I had claimed in true drama queen style. My mom probably wanted to laugh or strangle me, but she instead explained, “Sweetie, you have six more years of school. You'll learn those things.” So, with those words, I chose my focus and my career that night; English major aiming to be an editor. Since then, things have changed a lot. I haven't exactly followed the path my 16-year-old self decided on. I did not end up becoming an editor at a publishing house, although I did edit all of my college roommate's essays. The one thing that hasn't changed though, is that any large decision I have ever made was spent in a similar way; sitting down and doing hours of research to plan out the next step. However, a worldwide pandemic has a way of completely throwing us off the path we were walking down. This past year has been full of plan-ruining and re-making. This year I moved across the world. Moving (of course) took lots of planning, but everything I had planned nearly vanished when we were suddenly stuck in quarantine. I'd had everything laid out and researched- but none of that mattered anymore. Nothing was secure. All plans became like ungraspable smoke, dissipating into the air, causing hazy confusion. At first I was convinced everything I had worked for was completely ruined. I wouldn't be able to go, I'd be stuck at home, still living with my parents. None of this was part of my plan. My options were simple; remain lost or start peering through all the smoke and find new plans. I chose the second option. I was still going to move, I just had to leave the US a month later than I had thought. I was still going to work, just in a different city than I had hoped. I was still going to move into my first apartment alone, just without my mom helping me settle in. I embraced the stress that I was feeling and I gave my two weeks notice at my then-job. My coworkers thought I was crazy. Moving in the middle of a pandemic— there wasn't even a vaccine yet! I reassured them I would be fine, even though I wasn't 100% convinced of that myself. All I was sure of was that I couldn't let this opportunity go. I booked my flight only a week before leaving. Soon after I landed, I started my job as an assistant English teacher, with a work contract only from October until June. I had wanted to travel around Europe, but the pandemic made it impossible to even leave the community where I was living. Instead, I fell in love with the city where I was stuck in for the next few months. I became an expert at using every type of public transportation. I found the best Indian food restaurant for nights out with my girlfriend. I even adopted a cat, and decided to foster a pair of kittens. My life was in full swing, until the end of the school year. The end of my contract. Now here, I find myself once again sinking into the awful unknown of my next step… well for the next four months, anyways. I have four months of non-concrete work and this pandemic is still happening. I haven't been without a solid reliable job since I started college. How am I going to survive? My worries have started surrounding me and spinning all over, through my mind, and out of my mouth. My girlfriend tells me I'm spiraling as I start crying to her about the dreaded unknown, the risks, the lack of planning for this summer. I tell her that I'm going to end up homeless on the street with my three cats in a box. She starts laughing. I can't help but join in. Maybe I am spiraling, just a bit. The unknown has always been something uncomfortable for me. Yet here I am living on the sunny Mediterranean coast in a country known for saving worries for “mañana”. Despite teaching some private classes and having endless support from my family, a part of me thinks it won't be enough. However the other part of me has earplugs in and is encouraging me to just jump, because this time I can't let the unplanned hold me back from enjoying my life. I can't let the unknown keep me awake at night worrying. Right now, life in this pandemic is all smoke. Every day is hazy, because it's all still unknown. We can't change this, but we can breathe it in. Our lives can't always be confined within our plans, or our calendars. That's something this pandemic keeps teaching me.