Leaping into the unknown: why we don’t always need a plan
“You don’t always need a plan. Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens.” ~Mandy Hale
Wish I could go back to sleep.
Get up and ready for work. Tell myself that today I’ll leave earlier but then leave the same time as usual.
Walk to work. Pass all the same people I did yesterday. At the same time.
Arrive at work. Listen to the same people complaining about the same things. Complain about the same things myself.
Teach my classes. Tell people off for being late—the same people as yesterday and the day before that.
Go home. Try to work toward my dream life. Collapse from exhaustion after about half an hour and wonder what the point is.
Go to bed. Cry lots. Hope that I don’t wake up in the morning.
Wake up again and repeat.
This was my routine for a good number of months before I finally couldn’t take it anymore.
Did I have the world’s worst job? No, not really. Did I live in a hell hole? Not at all. In fact, you could probably say that I didn’t have any problems, yet I was possibly more miserable than I’d ever been.
I couldn’t believe it. How had I ended up like this? I’d tried so hard to change my life. I’d meditated, done yoga, followed my dreams, made a vision board, and bought lots of self-help books. I’d even read them, too!
What more was a girl supposed to do? Why wasn’t my life changing?
I desperately wanted to leave my job, but couldn’t. I wouldn’t have the money to pay the rent. I wanted to leave my apartment but I had nowhere to go. Not unless I went to stay with my mother and, I couldn’t do that—not at my age!
So I plodded on, I tried to be a good ‘spiritual’ person and accept my life as it was. I tried to make the best of things. And sometimes, it worked, but not for long.
Eventually the feelings of dissatisfaction would return. The feeling of helplessness. Feeling stuck. Wanting to escape.
But there was no way out. I’d be repeating this day forever. And ever.
Let It Go
Around this time, I was reading a lot about how we need to close one door before another can open. I was also seeing colleagues leave work to pursue a life of their dreams.
Rather than giving me hope, this made me feel more downhearted. It was all right for them; they had money, a partner, a new job, or an already-up-and-running business.
I was all alone. I was broke. I had no husband to support me. No rich relatives to bail me out.
Everything I’d done to try to make a living out of work that I loved had already failed. I didn’t even know what I wanted anymore. I just knew I didn’t want what I had.
I’d get irritated when I’d read about how I had to simply quit my job, how I had to follow my heart. What if my heart was only telling me what I didn’t want? What if it was refusing to tell me what was next?
What if I closed one door and the other one got stuck?
I was so afraid of what would happen, I held on for months, hoping for an answer to drop out of the sky.
Until the pain of staying where I was suddenly became too much to bear. I couldn’t take it anymore. Suddenly, what happened next didn’t matter.
I didn’t care.
I saw the madness of what I was doing: staying in a job I didn’t want to do, to live in an apartment that I didn’t want to live in, to stay in an area that I didn’t particularly like. Just to survive. And even surviving wasn’t much fun.
So I surrendered. I did what I’d felt called to do all along: I said goodbye to the security I’d been clinging to. With no idea of what was coming next. With no income and little money. And no idea where I was going to live.
But as soon as I made my decision, I felt a huge sense of relief. I wondered what had taken me so long.
Of course, it wasn’t long until the fear crept back in. I had moments when I wondered what I was doing and how I would survive.
But even in those moments of doubt, there was a knowing that leaving my present situation was the right thing to do.
All my life, I’d put survival first. Now it was time to put myself first.
My happiness. My sanity. My peace of mind.
The worst-case scenario may not be so bad. In fact, it might be quite good.
I was lucky. I was never going to be out on the streets. I knew I had the option of returning to stay with my mother until I sorted myself out. But I really didn’t want to do that. I was far too old for that now.
Besides, that would mean living in a town far away from anywhere, with no transport of my own. I’d be so lonely. I’d have even less chance of finding work I loved. I’d be even more stuck!
Despite my best hopes that something else would magically turn up, I indeed ended up returning home. I tried telling myself it would be fine, but the scary thoughts were still lurking.
However, within a couple of weeks of the move, I saw the new path begin to emerge—chance meetings with like-minded people, work opportunities in unexpected places, community events where I thought there’d be none.
And for the first time in months, I actually felt happy. Because for the first time in my life, I was truly putting myself first. And I was truly living in the present. Survival was no longer the name of the game. My own peace of mind and happiness was.
When the pain of being where you are is too much to handle, when life is shoving you in the direction of the unknown, dare to trust it.
As I said, I was lucky. I know not everybody can do exactly as I did. Not everyone has someone who can help them out while they make a drastic life change.
I also know how annoying it can be to be told to change your life when you simply don’t see how. But the point here isn’t to do what I did, but to let go where you can even if you have to face your own worst-case scenario.
When you begin to take care of yourself, when you follow what feels good for you and put your own physical and mental health first, you’ll find the path will begin to open up. You’ll find support from unexpected places.
You may even find that your worst-case scenario turns out to be the best thing you could have hoped for.
What I’ve learned is that having a plan is overrated. Sometimes we really do need to let go and see what happens next.