You’re Not Where You Wanted To Be, And That’s OK.

I am a planner.

One glance at my Google Calendar, or my personal planner, or even at this blog and you’ll see a college student who seems like she has a lot of her life figured out. You’ll see that she plans to double major in computer science and economics and maybe minor in Math. You’ll see that she has entrepreneurial interests and spends a lot of time doing marketing and design work but also fostering her hobby of writing. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find out that she hopes to work on the business side of a tech company if not working at her own start-up upon graduation. Have a quick conversation with her and you’ll learn that she plans to live in probably New York City for a few years before settling down in a suburb nearby, all while happily married with the stereotypical 2.5 kids and an Australian Shepherd. Maybe you’ll see that I have spent a lot of my life planning for certain things to happen.

But most of those plans won’t actually happen, and that’s OK.

I learned this lesson from one of the most influential mentor figures of my freshman year, Emily. She is currently a senior graduating in May. Emily came into college four years ago planning to graduate pre-med and eventually become a doctor in NYC, helping people in the big city. Instead, she has pivoted completely and is enjoying great success and happiness, despite not becoming a doctor and moving to New York. Not only is she graduating with honors as an HR major and is moving to Washington to work at Microsoft full-time, but she has also just started her own business called Stop Requested, a card game for Rutgers students. Now that she is graduating, she hasn’t actually accomplished the plans she set for herself freshman year, but she’s now on the path that’s right for her, all while being insanely successful, following her passions, and still helping people and changing lives in a big city!

Emily has been a big inspiration for me personally, and so as I began to reflect on my first year of college thus far, I’ve realized that I too have failed to accomplish a lot of what I planned to do in my first year at Rutgers. But it’s OK, because so many amazing things have happened that I never could have predicted.

I came into my first year at Rutgers with a list of programs I wanted to be involved in, events I wanted to go to, types of friends that I wanted to surround myself with, etc. I haven’t actually looked at that list until recently, and I’m glad that I didn’t end up striving to do some of the things on that list because it would have stopped me from seeing everything that was available to me. As a high school graduate, there is only so much you can learn about your prospective college without actually having been exposed to all that there is to do at college. Sure, you’ll know people in college who will tell you about random hidden gems in college like small eccentric clubs or an easy class to take that fulfills a requirement or a specific house that throws the best parties, but no one will be able to predict your college experience because you will need to find your own unique way.

It’s only been a semester and a half since I have started freshman year, but I have experienced so much that I never could have planned to happen. In my experience, one opportunity leads to another and it’s crazy when you let go of your plans just a little bit. As a computer science major, I never would have imagined that working as a data analyst at my school’s newspaper could have allowed me to plan a case competition, or that a flyer that I saw on an Instagram story would lead me to be accepted into the inaugural Road to Silicon V/Alley cohort, and so much more. Furthermore, I’ve learned that even if it wasn’t in the plan, it’s important to just go for things that you want to do and to never fail rejection. In simply pitching a simple sustainable business idea, my team and I have received funds from the business school, hired our very own intern, worked closely with our own team of food scientists, and will be attending international business events. I never could have imagined any of these things a year ago. The majority of the things that have made me the happiest have been unplanned, and that’s just the way life is sometimes.

Finding your favorite coffee spots, your passions, your people will take time, but you need to take the time to do it, and you need to do it without being limited by the plans that you set for yourself before you understood everything that was out there.

The point is, I believe that sticking too closely to a plan can actually limit people from reaching their full potentials. If I have learned anything from the first couple of months of my freshman year in college, it’s to take everything one step at a time and to take life one day at a time.

I’m still a planner at heart, and I will continue to dream about how my life will be in the future, but I know now that things change, and we need to embrace that.

With that, I would like to thank Emily and everyone else who has shared with me a piece of their journey so I could build my own.

To enjoying the ride and being present in the now,

Ash

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