I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I knew exactly how my life would play out, where I would live, what jobs I would have, if I would go back to school, and what kind of relationship I wanted. I thought I knew exactly what would make me happy and fulfilled for the rest of my life.
Yes, I really thought I had it all figured out at 23 years old.
Now most of you are probably laughing to yourself thinking, how could anyone possibly know what they want at 23? And you’re right. How could anyone possibly know? We only come to conclusions and make decisions based on what we already know, so, why did I think I had all the answers at such a young age?
Well, I was basing decisions and projections for my future on my first 23 years of life. 23 years (many of which were spent dealing with anxiety and perfectionism) of following a path (a path that was likely the result of aforementioned anxious and narrow-minded thinking). My anxiety made me think I didn’t have a choice. I had to have all the answers, or else my life would fall apart. Dramatic, I know. So I followed the path for as long as I could. Every time I was confronted with a new idea worth keeping, I would shuffle some things around in my brain and figure out how I could repave the path and still end up at the same destination and achieve the same goals.
Since coming back to New York in July, I have essentially questioned every belief I once held about my future. All at once. I have no clue where I want to live–so I had a nice little breakdown after getting accepted for Aliyah and signing a lease for an apartment in Tel Aviv. I have no clue what kind of job I want–yep, another breakdown while job-hunting on LinkedIn. I have no clue what I want in a relationship, or if I even want a relationship right now–yet another breakdown (and breakup).
My therapist says it’s good for me to admit that I don’t know what I want. Instead of chasing after this image I have for my future, admitting “I don’t know” actually allows me to question if I even want these things anymore. She says when I admit that I don’t know, I actually give myself the space to listen to my gut (or my “Knowing”, as Glennon Doyle would call it).
When I admitted that I didn’t know how I felt about my relationship, I allowed myself to sit with the uncomfortable thought that maybe this wasn’t what I wanted. Maybe I don’t want to consider someone else while making these really big choices about my future. Maybe I don’t want to be dependent on another person or have someone dependent on me. Maybe the type of relationship he wanted was just too different from the type of relationship I wanted.
When I finally just admitted “I don’t know” and sat in the discomfort with my Knowing, it was crystal clear. I had to end things. Not because he did anything wrong (he didn’t), or because he was a bad person (he isn’t), but because I just didn’t want it. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t right–that he wasn’t right for me.
It’s not easy to admit that I don’t know. It’s not easy to admit it to myself, and it’s especially not easy to admit it to a really kind and thoughtful person with whom I started to imagine a future with. It’s not easy to tell people that I don’t have it all figured out. That, maybe, I changed my mind.
But, oh, what a relief it is. I don’t know, and it’s okay. The world isn’t falling apart. Life still carries on. I can still create an awesome future for myself, and maybe that future will be even more awesome than I originally thought possible. I don’t know. And. It’s. Okay.
I want to say I made a mistake (or many)–that if I could go back, I would do things differently–but I didn’t and I wouldn’t. Every choice I made was the right choice at the time, but with new experiences and new information, I started to feel differently.
I wish I could have all the answers now; to know where I’m meant to be and when and with who. But that’s just not how life works. So, from now on, if you ask me a question about my future, don’t be surprised if all I can give you is “I don’t know”.
Written by Jessica Bard.