Look beyond your life plan

15 08 2009

I was a very lucky child. I had a wonderful family, parents who loved me and a nice house to live in. My family took me and my brothers on trips across the Czech Republic, my dad read to us before we went to sleep and my mum later homeschooled us to show us that learning is about something different than just being bored at school. Such bringing up helped me in many regards. I took up extensive reading, saw the value of higher education and began on my journey of self-improvement and discovery.

My bringing up, in some regards, certainly gave me a headstart on the journey of discovering all the opportunities that this world presents. Nevertheless, it was still grounded in the everyday constraints that we experience. Coming from a little town in the Southeast Czech Republic, I felt like a lot was determined by where I lived. I went to primary school in my hometown and then switched to homeschooling for Grade 5, only to start commuting the following year to the only grammar school in the area. If you wanted to go to university later on, this was the school to go to. (there was another school, but twice the length away). So I commuted to this school…for eight years. It wasn’t a bad school, don’t  get me wrong. It was just average.

My life plan was straightforward

And it seemed to fit in with the expectations everyone had. As I was thinking about my future life, my plan was always simple and clear. I had it all figured out. I would finish highschool and go to university in Brno or Prague. Most of my classmates would do the same so I would have a nice nest of friends somewhere near and go home every other weekend to see my family. I would finish easily (academics was always my hobby so I wasn’t worried about failing), maybe spend a semester abroad somewhere in Europe or the US, and then find a nice job in the city and live my life. Enter husband, kids and a nice house some years later and boom, living a comfortable life just like everyone else I knew.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this scenario. It’s very comforting in the least and I’m sure I would have been quite happy if everything had turned out according to this life plan. Maybe your plan is very similar to this one. Maybe not.

Can life plans be dangerous?

What I want to point out in this post, however, are the dangers of living by your life plan. What if you’re missing something remarkable? What if you’re missing the opportunity of your life simply by following this mindset and not even bothering to try and do something different? The other ideas may sound crazy. They may sound impossible and they may be way over the top of your head. But what if they could change the whole course of your life?

For me the breaking point was a meeting at a student conference in Barcelona. On a random ride on the Barcelona tube, a British boy was telling me about his decision-making process about applying to Oxford or Cambridge. Now, as some of you may not know, you can only apply to one of these in any given year and this boy was letting me in on his thoughts about both universities. I quietly swallowed and held my breath. This was the first time I ever met somebody who was even thinking about applying to Oxbridge, let alone attending one of these universities. I was just standing there in awe of this student, all of a sudden feeling somewhat small. You have to understand that for someone who has always been involved in academic stuff and other distinct signs of over-achieving, the sound of Cambridge or Oxford brought immediate respect and drooling. What I would have given for the chance to go to one of the best universities in the world.

Crazy and impossible?

In my little world, however, that was something unattainable. I was an average Czech girl, going to an average Czech highschool. There was NO way I could get into Cambridge. I didn’t go to private schools (like this British boy) and I hadn’t been preparing for these two universities for years either. It was just impossible and not even anything to think about.  And yet this boy, when he finished his pros and cons about each university, turned to me and asked: “So are you thinking of applying to Oxford or to Cambridge?” That simple and yet so unexpected question changed my life. Suddenly, this little thought or possibility started living in my mind. What if I really could get in? What if I dared to do something this crazy? What if? What if? What if? I got prospectuses and the more I was reading and thinking about it, the more I felt like I would regret not trying for the rest of my life. So I dediced to be crazy. I decided to apply to Cambridge even though I did not believe I could get in. I got all information, delved into learning abou the British higher education system and application forms, improved my English and studied for certificates, learned how to write essays and much more. All on my own because there was simply no one in my circle or area who could help me.

And the impossible became possible. I got an offer from Cambridge University and have been studying there for 2 years. All this just because I actually tried and did not let myself get derailed and discouraged by the craziness of the idea. Big crazy things are sometimes the best that life brings. And your life plan will not incorporate those. Maybe it’s time to look beyond it.

What now?

So I dare you to do something different today. Give a little more thought to that crazy idea you had a couple days ago. What is one thing you always secretly thought about doing but never found the courage to actually give it a try? Then do it. It probably will not be easy and it may very well be scary. But you need to give it a try. The worst thing that can happen is that it won’t work out. Then you can at least spend your life knowing that you tried!

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19 08 2009
Do you have a BUCKET LIST? « Be like Alice in Wonderland … just look through glass.

[…] you have a BUCKET LIST? In my previous post, I argued that having and rigidly following a “life plan” may not always be the […]

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