From the time we're born, it seems as if our entire lives revolve around school and planning for this mystical thing called a career and future. Unfortunately, no one really tells you what happens when you get there. Thrust into the unknown territory of adult-hood for the first time, I found myself unable to navigate this "real-world" nightmare that had manifested itself in my life.
As my to-do lists grew longer, I started to feel even more overwhelmed with tasks: go shopping, get an oil change, make a dentist appointment, pay credit card, file taxes... It never ends! Keeping myself alive is a lot of hard work. Sometimes, I get writer's block while making a grocery list (I kid!). While my friends find this hilarious, it's not very efficient...
To help with time management, I decided to take a development course at work based on the book "Seven Habits of Highly Successful People" by Stephen Covey. One of the time management tips suggests choosing a few "big rocks" to put in your bucket each week.
These rocks represent the most important tasks you want to complete in order to accomplish your goals and create balance in your life. This keeps the "sand and pebbles," otherwise known as the unimportant tasks, from taking up all of your time. We've probably all heard this analogy at one point or another, so I decided to test it out one week.
Keeping it old-school, I scheduled my workouts, volunteer hours, errands, conference calls, and flights for the week. One of these days I would finally have to feel like I had a grip on life, right? Planning seemed like the right answer. It always worked in school, so I figured it would work in real life too.
Monday passed. It was an early day that left me drained. After a 5am start at the office, my groggy self accidentally left my work laptop in the backseat of my car.
Tuesday morning, to my disbelief, I woke up to this...
You're seeing that correctly. My car window had been smashed out with a huge rock--and you guessed it--my work laptop was stolen. Rookie mistake.
All I could think about were the deadlines I was missing. If this crook couldn't do financial analysis and complete my assignment I was in some serious trouble.
I don't think that was the big rock the book was referring to.
It's 7am, I'm in tears, and completely alone to deal with this (a recurring theme) ... what do I do now? Luckily, it was a nice day to drive with the windows down and drink a double-shot espresso.
Right now you're probably thinking, "So Allyson, you're cruising around drinking lattes with glass flying around?" The answer is yes.
(Don't worry, I was not driving in this photo)
The rest of my morning consisted of filing police reports, a headache from the espresso, filing insurance claims, a conference call explaining to my boss that my computer (aka my ENTIRE job) was whisked away by an accounting thief...oh and don't forget a trip to the car dealer-- where upon arriving they asked, "Hey weren't you just here?" Yes, that was me.
"Wow, what happened? Do you have an angry ex boyfriend?" the Mechanic asked. No, someone just wanted my laptop.
Just then the insurance agent walked in, "I'm going to need your keys." Why don't you just use a rock? That's what everyone else does.
All jokes aside-- after hearing my latest fiasco, most of my friends back home told me they would have given up by now. They would have packed their bags and moved back home.
The truth is life isn't a success book. It's not a cookbook either. You can't just follow a recipe and expect to end up with perfectly baked double-chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes, your cookie is missing a few chocolate chips, or it comes out burnt, crumbled-- or in my case you ate the dough before it went into the oven. To put it simply, there's no recipe for success.
This entire year while I've literally felt like I was lost and wandering around in the desert (no, this is not a metaphor)... it seemed like I was waiting for an answer to fall out of the sky and tell me that I was doing the right thing. I wanted life to make sense for once. Was I making the right decisions or following the right path?
Something fell out of the sky, alright. Right into my window.
And what probably was just a teenager trying to pawn my encrypted laptop for a few dollars, ended up turning into the lesson I needed.
You Can't Plan Life.
No matter how perfectly scripted, budgeted, color-coded, or detailed of a plan you make, someone or something can come along and smash your expectations. Your cookie may crumble. Life is much more about learning how to bounce back from disappointments, overcome challenges, and navigate a world of uncertainty than just following a perfect plan.
When I was a student at Saint Vincent, I figured real life would seem like a breeze compared to stressful exams and finals week. However, with no more grades, papers, and deadlines to push me along, I began to feel lost. I started to question what I was doing here in the first place.
The game had changed. Life was no longer about living up to other's expectations. It was about creating the life I actually want.
These days I'm reading less "success" books and instead I'm beginning to write my own story.
If you're about to graduate or find yourself stuck in post-grad blues, here's a little tip I learned from west: The stress is never worth it. Stop planning and start living.
And most importantly don't forget to choose your big rocks wisely.