When Life Doesn’t Go The Way You Planned

College is a very strange, unique time in our lives. Our fate has yet to be decided, and as a result, many parts of our lives feel constantly left up to chance. What we imagine ourselves doing in ten years is probably not what we will actually end up doing. So how can one stay sane with such a small sense of control? How can we plan blindly for an ever changing future?

Psych! You thought I was going to tell you. Unfortunately, nobody knows the answer. We’re all just fumbling in the dark as best we can. Honestly, if I tried to tell you what to do, I would probably be wrong. So instead of giving you a list of steps to follow or a surefire plan of action, I’ll tell you what has been working for me and, at the very least, it may lend you some perspective.

Here are my words of advice based off of my personal experiences as of late.

It’s essential to remember that the attitude you feel toward yourself is entirely up to you. No matter what anyone tells you, your personal fate lies entirely in your hands. Of course, it is always wise (and often necessary) to go to others for help. Acknowledging that, it’s wiser still to remember that you can’t lean on others to make up the foundation of your basic self. It’s up to you to stand firmly in what is healthiest for you—becoming too dependent on others can quickly become unhealthy for all involved.

No one can guarantee happiness or success to you—so often I compare myself to others and expect more of myself than is realistic. We have everything within ourselves to be happy—it just takes time, effort (and sometimes psychiatric help). I’m talking about self love here, people. College is full of situations that test what little faith we have in ourselves, and often exposes how vulnerable we are.

One big, ugly problem that almost any Emersonian can relate to is housing selection. No matter how much you try, there’s no promising that it will go your way. My first experience with housing was a complete nightmare. My group of four did not get suite selection, and upon being cast into the stormy seas of open housing, fractured and broke apart. The anxiety of not knowing where or how I would be living next year left a constant, gnawing fear in the back of my mind.

In order to cope with all that terrifying uncertainty, I find it extremely helpful to acknowledge the concept of entropy: the guaranteed decline of all things towards disorder. Without a force of energy keeping things in order, all things will spiral into chaos. That seems like it would be the opposite of comforting, but it’s actually the best thing physics can do for us. It gives us the opportunity to have some control over our lives—a way to influence positive change on whatever messed up situation we are currently in. If we dedicate time towards something we love and care about, that thing will prosper.

College is full of surprises. If your year has been anything like mine, you’ve had a wild ride. A lot of things I thought were going to pan out turned out to be a bust, but on the other hand, a lot of good things have also come out of what were once broken. I’ve realized that there’s absolutely no sense in wasting time worrying about issues that are out of my control, like housing, course selection and countless other things that plague us college students. For those things, we must embrace the unknown and remain firm in the knowledge that the universe will work it out in its own time. If we focus on what we can change instead—like our level of self love—we can turn our fear into a force of positive energy.

Though we can’t all become carefree rays of sunshine, we can make a conscious effort to improve our lives. So here’s what we’ve learned this year: if you do nothing to influence change, things will never get better. But, if you are willing to work against the underlying chaos of our world, things can (and will) get better. Try starting with small things, like keeping your room clean. Once you are aware that the mess only grows the more you ignore it, you will find a purpose in keeping that mess at bay. This same principle can be applied to anything in life. It’s completely a matter of choice—and it’s all entirely, irrevocably up to you.

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