The Unforeseeable Future

Have you ever delved so deep into your personal plans for the future that you forget that you don’t have a clue what your life will be like? I’ve been on a steady roll doing exactly that for almost a year now, and I desperately need to snap out of it.

All of my life I’ve been a short-term planner, never a long-term planner. This may seem slightly backwards, but when it comes to things in the immediate future (say, tomorrow) I want to have a plan, I want to know what I’m doing. I don’t like to improvise short-term, unless its by myself. If it involves other people then I don’t like to improvise. But when it comes to things further away in the future, anywhere from six months to ten years, I can’t put the tiniest shred of a plan together. I keep chalking it up to  not knowing what I want from life.

Last January that changed. It almost did an about-face, actually. I stopped planning what I was going to do in the next couple of days and I started planning for the next year, or two years. I can’t say that’s been bad for me. I’ve learned to listen to my own interests more and for the first time in my life I’ve steadily and relentlessly pursued the things I think I want in life. (So it’s good, other than forgetting to keep doing things ‘now’.)

Last January, I applied for the Peace Corps. I got denied. And then I got un-denied and eventually an invitation. I accepted the invitation, and then I applied for a job in China, and I got it. So I unaccepted my PC invitation. Then I was asked to interview for a different job in China that I hadn’t applied for, and then was told that the position was filled, then asked again to interview. (What a rollercoaster!) I’m fairly certain of having the job in the bag now (I’ll know in a few days) and will be ‘quitting’ the first China job that I was offered to take up the second. It sounds like a lot of back and forth, which makes me feel flaky and uncertain, but that’s not what it is. It’s just that for once I keep getting one great opportunity after the next, and I keep getting to trade up.

Since I made the decision at the end of July to pursue a position in China, it’s basically been my daily mission to do something to help that plan along. And I’ve made a lot of progress. But I’ve gotten so caught up in the pursuit that I’ve seldom stopped to mull over what life will be like once I’m in China.

This isn’t to say I haven’t done my research. You should see my browser history. (Not everyone can say that, ha!) I’ve done my research, many times over. But even with that taken into account, I have no notion of what my very-planned life will be like in China. I don’t know that I can have a notion of that.

Between the research and the experience is this limbo of imagination. I can extrapolate all that I can from my research, and reasonably apply it to the circumstances of my living situation and location and job and lifestyle in China, but that gives me very little, practically. It gives me daydreams. There’s nothing wrong with daydreams, but they aren’t real. I am quite certain that at every point, my real experience of China will be worlds different from anything I now expect. Anticipation only goes so far.

I don’t know if there’s a solution to this, other than patience. It’s only a couple of months before I no longer have to wonder. I guess if I had to give myself some advice, I’d tell myself not to have expectations based on what I can imagine. I’d also tell myself to breathe for a second and realize that as ready as I think I am for this, I’m not ready. I’m going to need to brace myself and pace myself.

I’m all about jumping headlong into an adventure, but for now I need to convince myself to slow down and just breathe.

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