My life has always been planned for me. I always knew that I would go through the obligatory 12 years of grade school, followed by 4 years of college. My parents worked hard to make sure that my sister and I had all of the advantages that they could give us in life, and in return, this was the expectation for both of us. Furthermore, it was the expectation of all of my teachers, the expectation of all of my friends, and the expectation of everyone else who knew me: elementary school, middle school, high school, and then college. It never even occurred to me not to follow this plan.
In April 2006, one month before I was to graduate college, one month before I came to the end of the plan, I didn’t know what I wanted to do next in life. My options seemed to be either to go to grad school as half of my friends were doing or to get an entry level job somewhere as the other half of my friends were doing. It seemed as if the planned life was continuing indefinitely.
Then one day, I got a call from the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. As I politely listened to a lady tell me about their AmeriCorps program, I was not actually thinking about joining, but rather wondering how these people got my number in the first place. After all, the manual labor that they were talking about did not fit in with the plan. Later that day, I was talking with a friend and happened to bring up the random phone call from the VYCC. My friend began to laugh as I told her about the job. “Like you would ever do that,” she said. “Besides, there are no good malls in Vermont. You’d never want to move there.” Why was it so funny to think that I would do the VYCC job? And would I ever really completely discount an entire state due to the lack of shopping choices? It was at that point in which I seriously began to consider the AmeriCorps position.
Two months later, after applying for and accepting the job, I found myself spending my days raking campsites, checking in campers, and, god forbid, cleaning bathrooms. The funny thing about it was that I was enjoying myself, doing all of the work that it never occurred to me to even try before.
The next stop on my AmeriCorps journey took me to Mississippi to do disaster relief work. Halfway through my trip, I got a call from my old college roommate. I told her about all of the work that I had been doing, and she said, “I’m so proud of you.”
Her phone call made me realize a few things. It’s okay not to follow the plan that everyone else thinks it right. I don’t have a steadfast plan for my future. I think I know what I want to do after AmeriCorps is over, but if something else comes along, I’ll be open to it. My family, my friends, and everyone else no longer know exactly what to expect from me, but I know that I will get a lot more out of life if I create my own plan rather than following everyone else’s.
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