It’s that time when high school seniors are seriously contemplating their futures, wondering what will happen in the months after graduation. Now is the time when juniors are taking SATs and ACTs, trying to figure out which colleges to send their scores to and where they want to apply. The decisions are huge. Life-changing. Scary.
Over the past four years I’ve heard the repeating cries and fears. What if I don’t make the right decision? What if I choose the wrong career, wrong major, or wrong college? What if I miss out on what I’m supposed to be doing because I made the wrong decision? It’s a lot of pressure!
Let’s take some time to ease some of that pressure.
Think about it. The future isn’t a multiple choice test with only one right answer. Yes, it is true that the decisions you make now will direct the course of your life. It’s true that you’ll see the lasting impact of your actions in ways that you can’t even imagine. But that doesn’t mean that one life course is right and all the others are wrong.
I can explain this better by giving you an example from my own life. In 10th grade, I made a decision. I was a theater kid, and I also swam competitively. I reached a point when doing both extracurricular activities was taking up too much of my time, and I had to choose to commit to one and give up the other. I chose theater. It was that simple.
I didn’t see it then, but that one decision molded my life. The college I chose didn’t have a swimming pool, but it did have a theater program. Had I still been swimming, I wouldn’t have chosen that college. If I hadn’t attended that college, I wouldn’t have met my amazing friends, or even my husband. If I hadn’t met my husband, I wouldn’t have gone on all the adventures of the last four years.
So yes, a lot of my life’s weight rests on that one 10th grade decision. However, I don’t think theater was the “right” decision and swimming was the “wrong” one. I sometimes wonder what adventures and opportunities lay down the other life path, if I had chosen it. If I had decided to keep swimming and given up theater, my life would have been very different, but I don’t think it would have been bad. Does that make sense?
I would have attended a different college, but I still would have received a good education. I would have made different friends, but I wouldn’t be friendless. I would have built different goals and different dreams based on those different life experiences. Maybe, sometimes I would think about that 10th grade decision and wonder about the path I didn’t take, but no matter what, I think I would still be happy.
We are the sum of our experiences. Dreams and goals help guide us, but the past and the present are the only concretes in our lives. The future is flexible, pliable, and subject to unexpected interruptions. In fact, my life is a series of changed plans, interrupted schedules, and redirected goals. Every time my husband and I think we have our future plans figured out, something – probably Divine Intervention – gets in the way. We planned a quiet, settled life, and instead we’ve lived a range of adventures and achievements that we couldn’t dream up if we tried.
Which brings me to my second point. Your life, your plans, and your dreams are subject to change. You may pick a plan and a career, only to discover something better later. All of a sudden you have new goals and dreams that you hadn’t imagined when you were 18.
That’s OK. You don’t need to imagine it all at 18. Life will come whether you imagine it first or not. So make your plans and dreams your dreams, but don’t add extra pressure by assuming that there’s only one chance to strike the “right” path for your life. You have the freedom to grow, learn, change your mind, and strike out on other paths later. So don’t let fear of the wrong choice keep you from making a decision!
I once heard someone say that when God changes your plans, pay attention. It might mean amazing things are about to happen. My life is living proof of that possibility. Yours could be, too.