As I was looking through my papers that I’ve accumulated over the past few years and skimming this year’s planner, I stumbled upon a list of goals I made this August looking ahead at this semester I just finished.
Oh, man. I was glad about simply surviving the semester and walking out on both feet. Then I saw all I had set for myself to do, things that I knew would benefit me and make me a generally happier, more productive person. This included keeping up and getting immersed in the activities I chose to involve myself in, socializing on a regular basis, and making steady progress on my senior thesis project.
Simply put, I didn’t do those things. Any of those things. I was lucky if I responded to friends’ text messages within twenty-four hours. I haven’t touched the Word document titled “Senior Thesis” since September. I didn’t end up doing much outside of schoolwork, so trying to get campus organizations and activities off the ground were pretty impossible while I was scraping myself off the ground.
Yeah, setting goals and not reaching them sucks.
Looking at that list, those motivational statements that I envisioned myself doing and being in the past months, and then realizing I did not live up to my own testaments, I feel defeated. Should I have done more? Did I spend my time wisely enough? What if I had done such-and-such differently…
Obviously at this point, the fall semester is behind me, and I cannot change what happened. It is what it is. I can only reflect on what these weeks have taught me, appreciate where I am now, and look forward to what lies ahead.
Because when writing that list of well-intentioned goals, I did not write down the obstacles I was about to encounter. I did not plan for my physical and mental health to completely fight against me and receive little means of relief. I did not expect my living situation to take such a draining toll on me with, again, little means of relief. I did not plan to handle the heavy workload I did, especially coming right from figuring out the Canadian grading system last spring.
Goal-setting isn’t set in stone.
When writing those goals I had, even after two previous years of college in the books, I was going in blind. Just because I had finished what I had didn’t necessarily translate into an exact replica of those experiences where yes, all I had to do was set time aside for goals I wanted to accomplish to improve myself and I would have probably accomplished them.
Even though I completely forewent my intentions and ended up facing a difficult semester with the only goal of survival in my mind, I won’t allow myself to think I failed. To regret my decisions and experiences in favor of the unattainable “could have.” Yes, it could have happened how I envisioned it, but it didn’t.
As much as I’d love to plan out my every moment to ensure I’m making the most of my time, I’m not in control of that. I can be as “well-prepared” as I deem possible, but even then, it might not be enough. Life has other intentions for us, and just because they differ drastically from our minds doesn’t mean we’re invalid, that we failed.
Life can be better unplanned.
Funnily enough, pondering upon this thought, I was also going through my accordion folder I hadn’t touched in months, just to declutter anything I didn’t need. Hidden in a back pocket, I found all the materials I’ve collected over times in therapy and counseling.
One particular paper caught my attention. It was in my really dark depression before my first year of college. At that point, I can safely say I was having suicidal thoughts, and the only counselor available at the time was a general one offering five free sessions. Yeah, not necessarily the most helpful, but on my own that summer, I wrote a list of goals for myself, in that short period, for that school year, and further in the future.
What an odd feeling looking back on that paper and thinking of that time, walking in my younger self’s shoes of unadulterated hopelessness and numbness, and seeing the goals I wanted to accomplish then. Some goals included taking a trip that July, getting involved at college, and later on landing an internship, studying abroad, and graduating from college.
I can proudly say to my younger self that I actually accomplished those goals. And the goals I had just set for myself this semester I probably never would have dreamed of ever touching. My past goals were simply looking for any reason to look ahead to the future. My recent goals were making the most of how far I’ve come, continuing to learn and grow from a much healthier place.
Life is crazy. How drastically perspectives can change, how we can develop as individuals. I have a lot to feel accomplished about. I have a lot to look forward to. I’ll inevitable face (MANY) rough patches, but I’m still moving forward despite it all.
So remember, folks, if your well-thought out plans, even ones made according to some research-proven method of goal-setting, might not work out. And that’s okay. In fact, maybe you’ve accomplished much more than you realize.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie