Huang: Why I stopped chasing time

Yujia Huang, Columnist

All my life, I have been chasing after the next big thing. Take this class. Ace this test. Join this club. Meet new people. Find an internship. Get a job.

There used to be a master plan in my head, a convoluted web of dots and connections that would “optimize” my life and lead me to the “best” possible life. I would plan out exactly what I needed to accomplish in a certain time frame, and within that amount of time, my life would be controlled by this goal I set for myself.

But as my master plan grew, I couldn’t help but feel shackled. Instead of gaining joy and satisfaction, I felt constrained. Every day, I knew exactly what I had to do, when to do it and why doing that certain task would take me to my next goal.

But life is neither an elegant equation nor a perfectly smooth curve. Would my master plan really take me to my final destination? More importantly, how would a wanderer who is so far away from the finish line even be able to see where the ending point is?

Little did I realize that my onerous timelines and endless plans were not a sign of clarity, but a reflection of me chasing time and idealizing life. By planning out exactly what classes I wanted to take, what books I wanted to read and what career I wanted at an age of 18, I was getting way ahead of myself. I falsely assumed that the person I’d be in one year would be the exact same person I was one year ago. The attempt was futile: It was like filling a bathtub while draining water from it at the same time.

By telling myself that I needed to take on leadership positions in a club as a freshman and securing a cool internship as a sophomore, I was actually losing control of my own life.
Instead of letting things unfold naturally and organically, I started to be driven by my time-insensitive goals. With the intention of letting the master plan be my wings that would help me fly higher, I had become shackled by my own false idea of what success means.

Everything in my life was a hurdle and every day I was training myself to jump through those hurdles. My life was defined in terms of my goals, not what made me feel natural and organic. Instead of letting time do its own magic, I felt pressured to measure all my goals in terms of time. I was afraid to let go of my plans, because not doing anything would mean I was lost, confused and not in control of my own future.

Letting go of my plans wasn’t easy. For the past few months, I stopped doing what I thought I had to do and quit a lot of clubs I thought I had to join. I had so much free time to sleep and not do anything. When my friends asked me, “What are you doing in college?” I replied with, “I’m just chilling.” The old me would feel inadequate with the shocked expressions on their faces, but the new me has realized that it’s okay to not have plans and just let time do its own magic.

After a month of hiatus, new opportunities have arisen for me in ways I would never have imagined. For example, I became an editor-at-large at Thrive Global Campus, a publication started by Arianna Huffington, without even knowing the position existed. None of these things were ever in my master plan, but I am more than ready to take them on.

These new opportunities that arose out of chance made me realize that change is the only constant and that nobody is in control of their future. A master plan sounds comforting, but it does not provide anything else other than security in the mind. Planning can be helpful, but thinking that you know exactly how you want to play every step of the game will set you up for failure.

It’s hard not knowing what’s going to happen next. But sometimes, slowing down and letting the world surprise you might be the best thing you can possibly do.

Yujia Huang is a Weinberg first-year. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

Correction: A previous version of this column misstated the author’s position at Thrive Global Campus. She is an editor-at-large. The Daily regrets the error.