I have faithfully embodied the trademark characteristics of a Type A personality for as long as I can remember. I have an unending to-do list on my laptop; I am easily impassioned and emotional; I don’t find relaxation as appealing as being busy; and I am prone to worry and stress. Some of these traits are symptoms of an upbringing by immigrant parents and taking after my conscientious father, I am hyper-organized and programmed to plan ahead. My most enduring and defining trope is that I am obsessed with formulating and executing plans — in life, in relationships, in my career.
Now don’t get me wrong — I have no issue with the way I’m wired as a perfectionist. Even though I live my life around the clock and am perpetually worried about the little things, being Type A has made me a career-driven go-getter with a clear vision for my future and a creatively analytical mind.
At 7 years old, the plan was to read every book from the meticulously curated list I harbored in my journal, imitate my favorites and become a best-selling novelist. As a high school freshman, the plan was to ascend to mock trial team captain, make the tennis team, obtain Ivy League degrees in English and law and live the illustrious life of a modern woman in a big city.
The plan is fluid, ever-changing, increasingly detailed with every revision, but always there. But in all its cliched glory, here’s the thing: Life happens.
I grew up to realize I needed more than just a love for books to become a famous novelist. I made the track team instead of tennis and took an introduction to journalism class on a whim, which catapulted me deep into a field I now love. I came to the sobering conclusion that an English degree would be too limiting for my ambitions. I was rejected from my dream universities, but wound up here after a semester-long stint in Paris that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
It wasn’t until recently, in the throes of one of my weekly existential crises, that I began to question the plan. Not its content, but its very essence. It’s omnipresence. Why has the plan always been such a vehement constant in my life? What’s the point of letting my life be dictated by the promise of unrealistic ideals?
Honestly, I don’t have an answer. Other than providing an artificial sense of security and housing my wildly misguided optimism that my life will play out exactly as I envision it, the plan has mainly yielded disappointment, no matter how diligently I refine and believe in it. But I do know that the plan is far too twisted, elusive and inherently flawed for me to ever harvest genuine happiness from it.
I have 19 years worth of proof that the plan seldom becomes reality. And in spite of all its shortcomings, I am here and I am happy. Having a plan falsely led me to believe that the circumstances of my life are within my control but every time the plan has failed, everything has worked out in my favor regardless.
So, to keep it PG, screw the plan. Thanks to advice from adults far wiser than me, my exceedingly Type B boyfriend and some inspirational TED talks, I’m done trying to plan life — done strategizing a guaranteed path to happiness because no such path exists. Life is too chaotic, unpredictable and beautiful to tame or mold to fit my quixotic mindset. Rather than agonizing over the nuances of circumstances outside my control, I will focus on appreciating everything I have now and trusting in the greater scope of things. And, trite as it may sound, I’m going to enjoy the little moments day by day and stop to smell the roses.
I’m not going to beat myself up about dropping out of the business minor I planned to pursue. I’m not going to dwell on that internship I didn’t get. I’m not going to prioritize my professional pursuits and my foolish attempts to forge the perfect future ahead of my mental well-being. I’m not going to capitulate to my perfectionist instincts that constantly tell me I’m not good enough because I’m not perfect.
Right now, the plan is to close my laptop and get to bed — because frankly, it’s enough for this column to be done than for it to be perfect.
Catherine Yang is a sophomore majoring in communication. She is also the lifestyle editor of the Daily Trojan. Her column, “Catharsis,” runs every other Wednesday.