I was a checklist person.
Good grades. Check.
Couple of extra curricular activities. Check.
An internship or some NGO work. Check.
Good college. Check.
Rigorous course that’ll open up a lot of options. Check.
That’s who I was for the first eighteen years of my life. I was the poster child for people who have their lives ‘figured out’. Three months into college I realized that Math is not for me. Suddenly my checklist did not make sense. I did not want the corporate job, I hated classes and how we were taught, and I was struggling with being at the bottom of the class. My checklist became that thing I showed people whenever they asked me what my plans were. It became a convenient excuse.
Now that college is over the checklist is mocking me. Everybody who thought I knew what I was doing looks at me like a pile of rotting potential – such a waste. Everybody who knows how much I was struggling offers advice and words of wisdom that though sweet are not helpful at all.
Here is the absolute truth: I have no idea what I am doing. Here are the riders: I am twenty one years old. I know what I love doing. Somewhere, deep down I believe I will eventually figure it out.
Unfortunately, what I believe is not enough for my parents. They don’t know how to deal with me. They don’t understand that writing is all I want to do. It’s not lucrative, it’s not a profession that guarantees success or a comfortable life and it’s not something most people brag about (unless you publish a bestseller). They see a good girl gone rogue. They see a failure.
Do I think I am a failure? Well, it’s hard not being a checklist person. I am no longer jumping from one goal to another. I have a lot of time to think about things that have gone ‘wrong’. I feel like I don’t have any purpose. I look at my friends with their fancy job opportunities and their potential fancy master’s degrees and I feel jealous. Then I feel petty for feeling jealous. It’s hard not being able to fit in the mould that I (and others) have created as an archetype of success.
At the same time I am writing more than ever before. I spent a month in Paris with wonderful people who taught me how to write and think differently. I wrote my first non-fiction piece (this is my second one) and I am being painfully honest with myself. Those are big steps.
Every other day someone asks me what I am doing now and depending on how I am feeling I answer with varying degree of honesty. I am being honest with myself but not with others. That will take some time. It’s also because how most people respond does not inspire any confidence.
Am I still a checklist person? Probably.
But it looks a lot different now:
Meet new people.
Write a book.
Learn to be okay with who you are.
Write a poem every day.
So on and so forth.
They are no longer just goals. They are not things you get done with and then put on the wall as some sort of trophies. They are lifelong practices that will take time and constant effort. They are things that I really want to do and if you are not okay with that, well, you are most welcome to my old checklist.