Designing a life

The old saying is that life is what happens when you’re making other plans. I understand the sentiment, but thus far I can’t say that’s been my experience. Let me explain.

I’m a planner, I plan. It’s what I do. Not so much the short term stuff, like planning a party - I’m hopeless at that. I mean for the long term. I have had vague roadmaps for where I would like to to go in life for as long as I can remember. I knew early in high school I wanted to go to university. Not long after that I knew what I wanted to study there. I knew then what sort of employment I would move into and and ideas about how I would go about getting there. Somewhere along the way I knew I had to change my lifestyle, so I did that too. Roadmaps. Plans.

It all happened. I had tremendous support from my family and great friends that came along for the ride. Without this help, none of this would have been possible. Everything I’ve done up until this point has been about making things happen on my own terms. I always wanted to be in control of the key changes in my life - to take on one thing at a time, get it done and move on. I have succeeded in this thus far, for what that’s worth.

But the next part of the roadmap is different. I’m moving out. I can hear you groaning out there. It’s not that big a deal. It’s time. My family have been perfect and if I wanted to they would probably let me stay and use their electricity even longer. I’m doing this to learn more about myself. So whilst I’m only in the early stages, I’m back planning again.

I figure that when most people move out for the first time they do so for a more tangible reason than mine. Maybe they are moving for work or study. It might be to live with their partner or to get away from their family. In these perfectly valid circumstances, people are at the mercy of a whole range of things - time, location, the type of place they need. I do not really face any of these constraints in any serious way. So much of this is entirely up to me. It only dawned on me what I’m really doing the other day: I’m designing my life.

I now get to ask myself the sorts of questions that I have never given serious consideration to. Where do I want to live? By myself or with others? What sort of place? What do I really need to bring with me? What can I live without?

These questions are all practical ones. In of themselves they lead to asking more abstract ones. What sort of life do I want to lead? What do I really value? Convenience? Proximity to social activities? Do I want peace and quiet, or do I want to be in the middle of the action? From a young age, so many aspects of our lives are out of our control that we very rarely get to start with a blank slate. It’s exciting and terrifying.

The reason this process is interesting is that I don’t know how much about my priorities because so much of it has gone unexamined for my entire life. Understanding what is really important to us demands that we also know what is not important. I have so few points of reference my tools for making decisions will be extrapolations at best and guesses at worst.

I think a lot about the concept of option paralysis, the idea that we often are presented with too many choices in our lives, and trying to understand the impact that these choices can have on our decision-making. That’s why I’m fishing for some constraints. I just need to find a couple of housemates, decide on a suburb, anything, but the feeling of sitting in front of a real estate website without any way to narrow down the search results is too much.

Another thing I don’t know is how I’ll go living with other people who aren’t my family, and how other people will go living with me. I think I’m a pretty neat person; how will I respond to a messy sink? I have had an ensuite for the last three years, how will I go sharing a bathroom again? I just don’t know. I suppose these are the things I’m hoping to learn about myself, but with the learning comes the unknown. After this experience, I’ll have a clearer idea of who I am and what I can tolerate. It’s going to be a true journey of self discovery.

There’ll never be a better time for me to do this. I do realise that for so many people this is a process they have already gone through and there isn’t much I can say on this topic to enlighten those people. I’m fortunate enough to be in control of so many aspects of this transition and for that reason I think my experience seems different to that of many others. What I’m learning is that even being in control of some aspects of a change like this doesn’t mean that no uncertainty exists at all; it just means dealing with different kinds of uncertainty. After doing my best to shape the situation I find myself in for my entire life, maybe it’s time I embraced the uncertainty.