Like every other kid, I wanted an iPod, and for years I devised ways to get one: Christmas lists, summer jobs, and the like. None of them ever worked–I still don’t have an iPod. In the absence of a programmed music player, I learned the joys of the radio, a place where nothing can be anticipated, and patience and diligence are rewarded with my favorite Beyonce song. Radio was constantly expanding my boundaries and exposing me to new things, whereas an iPod would have played the same things over and over again, boxing me in.
At one time, I boxed myself in with aspirations. Before my freshman year of high school was over, I had set plans to attend Northwestern University and become a journalist. My plans were detailed and specific: I would get married to an economist at the age of 27 and have one son named Thaddeus. I knew there were certain things I couldn’t control, so I simply planned for anything unexpected. If I had a daughter, for example, her name would be Vivien. And everything was going to be perfect–perfect until I got my rejection letter from Northwestern last year.
I was so frustrated and confused I couldn’t even feel disappointment that my plan had failed its first test. I only wanted to know one thing: what I was going to do. I stayed up the whole night after I got the rejection letter researching new colleges, majors, and careers. I ended up applying to another college in addition to the four I had done in early fall, one that I had never heard of before.
Today I’m more unsure about my future than I have ever been–and yet more excited. I still want the same things: to be successful, to be loved, to have a positive influence on others–but I’ve now opened myself up to life’s inherent uncertainty. I once thought of my single-mindedness as an asset, and I had always felt comfort in knowing exactly what I wanted to do when most kids hadn’t a clue. Now I’m beginning to see that the best things in life come as surprises. This I believe: life will never be a perfectly executed plan, so why not see what happens?