12/13/2013 03:18 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Did You Expect?

post grads

So my writing partner and I have been writing a meta sort of screenplay recently, a movie within a movie kind of deal. Our character has a line in her script in the story: "What did you expect?" We thought we were being coy in giving her this double meaning line that would guide her through her journey. However, as we've gone through a very writing-intensive couple of months, this line that, at one time seemed unique to our character, pushed past the page and started to invade my everyday life.

For pretty much as long as I can remember, I've had a five-year plan. By the time I was eight, I knew where I wanted to go to college. On my first day of college (at the university my eight-year-old self decided) I had my four years planned. It goes on and on until, here I am today, writing this about how, in fact, a five-year plan, no matter how well accomplished, will never, ever be what you expect. It's a hard fact to face, for me at least. There's that second when I suddenly take a step back and I think, hmm, this isn't quite how I imagined this would be playing out. A part of me feels very uneasy about that -- a little freaked out that thing's aren't going how they played out in my head (I have a tendency to loop scenes of my own future life through my mind). But then, there's piece of me, a piece that's slowly growing in size as I get older, that thinks -- well, this is kind of okay because, for the most part, things are turning out better, or at least more exciting, than I had anticipated.

We all have our rough moments. Right? I'm not alone here? It's supposed to be that we learn from our failures, have to conjure up the courage to keep going. I totally believe all that, I do. But I also think that our failures are these markings of us not getting exactly what we thought we were going to get. In a way, can we think of failure like another option? Another road presenting itself? Maybe that's overly optimistic, and I know that I would have a hard time seeing what most, including myself, see as failure as a little gift from some cosmic force. But, I am a believer that everything happens for a reason, and within that reason there's bound to be failure. Beyond failure, there's bound to be these pieces of our life that happen totally sporadically, unexpectedly if you will.

It's been about coming to terms with that recently. That things really aren't going to play out as I expected they would. At the time when this shocking, and sometimes bizarre, turn of events happen I find myself frozen, confused, frustrated. I don't doubt that these feelings will ever go away, but I'm starting to take solace in knowing that, at least for my past almost twenty-four years of life, everything has turned out okay. I've accomplished what only seemed like a glimmer of an idea years ago. All that unexpectedness has kind of paid off. I'd like to attribute it to my own choices, and a neatly carved path I formed for myself, but I can't give myself that much credit.

These past few days I came to visit my sister at college in Chicago. As she rounds up her first quarter of her freshman year, she said to me when we were walking: "It's funny because college isn't what you think it's going to be." She talked about the grand ideas that she had, that I had, that, frankly, I think we all had, when we embarked on that final stretch of our education. That it's going to be some magical world where everything will be different. But the grass is always greener, right? College is amazing, and she would agree with me on this. But it comes with a lot of disappointments. And, for the first time in our lives, when we are in college, we are responsible for all of those disappointments. Those failures. She, with a much straighter head than I, is already on top of this. Knowing that everything will be okay. Enlightened well beyond her years that the unexpected nature of this point in her life is what is going to make it exciting. We all want excitement -- maybe there are a few who are satisfied with a simple and uneventful life, but for them, I cannot speak.

Frankly, it is the unexpected that brought me full circle to write this piece. I mentioned the script my writing partner and I are writing. Our character who spoke these words: "What did you expect?" is speaking to her acting partner, her boss (a brutally cold man), herself, me, and hopefully (if this "masterpiece" of ours ever hits screens) anyone who reads and watches her. This line, this character and this sentiment I've been able to boil down wouldn't have come to fruition if my plans had gone as I had hoped two years ago. I would not have met my writing partner; we would not have come up with these ideas. In this case, the unexpected, which I, believe me, did not expect, wouldn't exist. And, as we enter the giving and thanks of the holiday season, I am truly thankful (albeit totally scared) that I will continue to be a confused fish out of water, and find myself in more and more circumstances where I'll hit myself on the head and have to say: "Well, Anna. What did you expect?"