All my life I’ve heard about the 5 year plan. It helps to keep you focused on your goals and to work towards what you want in life. I’ve never had a 5 year plan, and I probably never will. Although in retrospect I have a lot to say about 5 year increments. I looked at the calendar the other day and realized it has been 5 years since my life change was finalized. Looking back the week leading up to that finalization was one of the longest weeks of my life and all I wanted was for everything to end so I could start over.
I was proud of myself in many ways, that I decided to give up on what I wanted in life and my timeline in order to live a better life. I admire the strength my former self had at the age of 26 and how fearful she must have been to start over after watching her entire future crash into pieces. The 26-year-old me decided it was time to pursue my dream of being overseas and trying to live in Korea. My original motivation was to do what I wanted and have a space where no one knew me. My life choices wouldn’t be judged. I could reinvent myself as I saw fit. When I first arrived in Korea I thought I would be a lifer. That I would stay in South Korea and create a new life for myself. I had these dreams of becoming fluent in Korean, renovating a hanok, and building a life.
I thought during that time I would find myself again and find happiness. I thought I would fall in love again, get married and start a family. 5 years is a long time and I thought it was plenty of time to start over and achieve what I gave up at 26. I wondered as the years slipped by why the things I wanted weren’t appearing, why it seemed only time was slipping away as I aged. My timeline, the shackle that always seemed to be attached to me as I looked around at my life. Many people say I ran away from life when I made the decision to move overseas 5 years ago. Depending on how I look at it, I could say I ran away from my life in the states, and I ran towards myself overseas. I was suffering and didn’t know how to heal. I remember distinctly when the high of life started to evaporate after I was hospitalized for a week my first year in Korea. For some reason that trip to the E.R. seemed to trigger a lot of things I had repressed to the forefront of my mind.
Unable to ignore things I managed to function day-to-day and have fun from time to time on my highs. During my lows I hid away. Looking at the me who lived in Korea for 4 years there are so many things I accomplished with that state of mind and so many things I didn’t do because of it. One of my best accomplishments was creating a strong work ethic and bonding with my many coworkers through the four years I taught at various schools. The relationships I built with my students and realizing I made an impression, whether it was a short or long period of time. That even at my worst I still showed up for them even if it meant I had no energy for myself.
I wish I had traveled more around the country, made more friends and lived more instead of feeling guilty constantly for meeting new people or not including others. Feeling guilty for being depressed and not wanting to do things. If I could talk to my old self I would say I didn’t owe my time to anyone, it isn’t my problem if my friends don’t like who or what I am doing, it isn’t their life. It is such an important lesson and yet I struggled to learn it until my last year living there.
I left the place I thought I would live until I was an old lady and came home. My timing in many ways was the best it could have been. I was able to bond with friends and family that I hadn’t spent time with in years, and although it wasn’t as much as I wanted it was a start. A start of reaffirming relationships with others and confirming that we are still here for each other. I spent a lot of time bouncing around different places trying to find my way again, always knowing deep in my heart, home, wasn’t it. I boarded a flight and here I am sitting in China, a different country than I had planned 5 years ago.
The weeks leading up to this anniversary had me realize in so many ways during the last 5 years I was chasing the wrong dream. I went to Korea, for myself, to learn more Korean and about the culture, to experience life abroad, and to prove to myself that I was more than capable of adapting to life somewhere else. To prove that I’ve always been independent and that even if it was late it is never too late to pursue what was in my heart. The only issue is if I follow the wrong dream, because the real one has been clouded over. My last year in Korea I found that I had somehow taken the wrong path for 4 years, and yet with all things in my twenties that went awry it wasn’t a waste of time.
My twenties were a period of slow growth and a lot of decisions that led me awry until I could find the path I was meant to be on again. I might not like everything I did, or how long it took me to get where I am during the last decade, especially the last 5 years, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without those mistakes. Bad decisions, poor choices, wasted years if viewed negatively really make me feel like I wasted my life. The truth is with all my decisions I’ve never wasted my life, even when I was at my lowest point and I struggled, I always believed that every thing that happens is an experience. I’m supposed to learn from this otherwise I won’t grow. If I learn from it no matter how long it took me, I have gained something from that experience and I have a deeper understanding of who I am.
I really have taken the road less traveled in so many ways, and I refuse to give up my hopes for what I want in the future. My 5 year plan failed in achieving any tangible success, but it did provide me with intangible success. I wanted to have myself and my life neatly in order and I’ve only managed to find me, Nina. As nice as it would be to have found everything else in that time, I wouldn’t change my experiences. I’m so grateful for finding myself, that no matter how slow the rest of life falls into place I won’t struggle like I did mentally through my teens and twenties. Dealing with my demons now means I will struggle less with it as I age and I’m ready to embrace life however it comes.
So here I am on the eve of the day that 5 years ago I said goodbye to a certain future for one of uncertainty. Strangely life is still just as uncertain as it was then, and that is okay. My timeline has died and I don’t know if there is another one. Maybe the best way to explain life now would be what my motto was for a long time, it is what it is. My choices are what they are, my life is what it is, my path is what it is, what will happen will happen, as there is no certainty in life. I’m at a place where once in a blue moon my fears wash over me and then disappear just as quickly as dusk turns to dawn. From now on there are no more 5 year plans or ideas of what I should have in my life. I’ve never lived that way and I never will. I wasn’t meant to live a cookie cutter life and in time my life will unfold with the things I want in its own special way and trajectory.
I never thought I’d reach a point where I could say I am okay with that. I’m okay with not having a timeline or not knowing the trajectory of my life. The me from 5 years ago would never have been able to fathom this me. And I know in 5 years time I will most likely surprise myself again with the changes I have made and where my life is. Embracing uncertainty was the answer I have been looking for all along.