19 Things That Can Only Happen When You Get a Little Lost

African woman riding on train
African woman riding on train

I love plans... So much so that it probably borders on the unreasonable.

I've actually believed each stage of my life would fit effectively into my little annoyingly over-achieving set of goals. I thought I would follow each step of the plan and achieve each outcome. Take my first cell phone, for example. Several months before I turned 12, I sat down with my parents in the living room and told them I had been planning on receiving my first cell phone on my birthday. I then proceeded to present a PowerPoint about which flip phone and bedazzled case I wanted, and outline how my grades and behavior earned the arrival of said phone by my 12th birthday. That can't be normal.

The worst part is that I am not alone in my absurd expectations. We are taught to believe things like this. As kids and adults, we are instructed relentlessly to set goals, measure progress and then receive the benefits. At some point we are all forced to face the harsh reality that life often doesn't work that way. It's messy. You write goals, scratch a few out and take a new direction. You do a little erasing and revising. Hell, sometimes you straight-up crumple that piece of paper and toss it into the flames. Your heart is going to get broken sometimes. You flounder a little bit, searching for stability in the most unlikely places. You realize no number of to-do lists, schedules and overly thought-out PowerPoints can prepare you for what it means to find yourself.

There are lessons to be learned when you feel like your life has become one giant road trip with a dead GPS, no cell service and only a bottle of flat Diet Coke in your cupholder to give you strength. These are the times when you realize the only real plan is the one inside your heart. Here are 19 things that can only happen when you get a little lost:

1. You actually seek other options. You look up apartments in cities you've never considered. You start bonding with LinkedIn like it's the messiah of your career. You broaden your spectrum. You become open to the paths you'd previously closed.

2. You take a few more chances.

3. You start finding the self-affirming confidence you need inside yourself, instead of in some kind of life report card.

4. Falling down causes you to think. Instead of just going through the motions and checking off items on a list, you have to take a moment and say, "Wait, why in the hell am I here right now?" As crazy as it sounds, that question can change your entire life -- and so can not asking it.

5. You realize how tiring and useless maintaining a facade can be. Basically, you become too busy and too confused to try to be Insta-cool anymore.

6. You surrender your bullsh*t crown.

7. You finally establish your own unique strategy for getting on the same page as your family. You have to straight-up be like, "Mom. Please. Have mercy and tell me how to get better car insurance while still refraining from offering your opinion of my love life. My state of mind is fragile right now."

8. You find out who your real friends are. When you don't have the clean laundry or funds to go out, and a homegirl stays home to drink cheap Merlot with you, she is the real MVP.

9. You learn to prioritize.

10. You start to analyze the factors behind the goals and aspirations that you set. Once you are knee-deep in the starting muck of the path you chose, you naturally consider if you chose it for the right reasons, or if those reasons were too motivated by others. You figure out if you're doing what you want for yourself or someone else.

11. You learn to appreciate.

12. You realize your limitations. You know which nights you can stay out drinking until they shut the place down and which nights you gotta lock yourself in your room with espresso.

13. You figure out the parts of yourself that you aren't willing to change, no matter how much pressure you may be under to do so.

14. You uncover the desires and needs you kept hidden in the deepest corners of your heart.

15. You achieve the incredible ability to rejoice in laughing at yourself.

16. You realize love is more than the perception of perfection you had once believed it to be. You see that real relationships aren't pretty pictures and candlelit dinners. You find love in the person gently waking you up at 6 a.m. with a big cup of coffee. You find it in the hands holding your hair back after you thought it was a good idea to eat Chinese food from the sketchy place down the street. You find it in the person who accepts you in your vast sea of confusion with a big hug and a comforting amount of laughter for your stories and antics.

17. You stop feeling the need to explain yourself to others and justify your every decision to the masses.

18. You become comfortable admitting fault and forgiving yourself for mistakes.

19. You learn how to rejoice in achieving direction through pure trial and error. You learn how to put together the pieces of your broken hearts and broken plans. You make a new masterpiece, forged by your own self-discovery.

That sounds like one hell of a plan to me.

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