Planning ahead can really save you sometimes. I always used to rely on planning ahead. I still do. Every moment of my life is playing out either according to my plan or against it. I plan conversations, I plan interactions with other, I even prepare for interactions with strangers on the street. My facial expression is carefully constructed, as is my body language and my very words.
I’ve had to plan all of that, because otherwise I couldn’t survive social interaction. I didn’t understand most of the time, so preparing ahead made it easier to pretend I did. It makes my behaviour, my sentences and expressions seem more natural to neurotypicals if I practice and deliver my performance like I was an actress on a stage.
I plan my week, my days, everything is scheduled from the moment I get up in the morning until I go to bed in the evening. If I don’t do what I intended to do, I am failing continuously that day.
You are starting to see the problem, aren’t you?
I don’t plan when I write, I never did and never will. Writing flows through me as easily as the wind blows across the plains. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I love writing. I plan when to write, but not what to write. I may think about what I want to write about and practise sentences in my head, but whether I use it or not depends on how I feel when I sit down to write, and more importantly, it depends on what I decide I need to write about at that very moment. Writing truly is the only form of true freedom I feel like I experience.
That’s the core problem. It shouldn’t be the only moment of freedom. I think my planning ahead has gone terribly wrong and gotten out of hand. It can be helpful, but here is why I think it is no longer helping me at all.
I try to plan for my future, you see. I am afraid. I am afraid down to the very core of my being. I’ve lived with debt since I was 18 years old. When I tried to get rid of my debt when I was younger, something always happened, and I ended up in more debt. Then, when I finally got a handle on my finances, it was because I got student loans. Clearly that was only an extension, not me freeing myself from debt. I made the mistake to think it would be easier to pay student loans off because I would have my degree. Once you have a master’s degree you should be able to get a job that pays well, right? Wrong.
Completely wrong, in fact. Maybe my parent’s generation had it differently and an education was a path to job security, but in today’s world it is not your educational background that defines your ability to get a job – not like it used to. It probably does for some, but for me, it didn’t feel helpful but quite the opposite. Of course, being on the spectrum means it is even more difficult to get a job. I can’t sell myself the same way others do, because social cues are often a challenge for me to grasp. I didn’t get a job and now, two years after I graduated, I am still struggling to both survive on very little money while paying off a debt I can’t afford to pay. I have no job and no obvious career path in front of me. What I do have is lots of plans.
Learn that and then you can do that. Learn this. Prepare for this or that course, degree or whatever. I try every day to plan my future, because I need a job as soon as humanly possible and I don’t know how to find one. My degree is more limiting than anything, because I can’t get non-degree jobs. People won’t hire me because I am ‘over-qualified’ and people won’t hire me for jobs related to my degree because… well, I have special needs and apparently, they are more important than my skill-set.
I need an income to pay my debt. I want to pay my debt. I want to become debt free. I hate the constant pressure of debt. It’s like being locked in a room with a killer, knowing that if you go sleep, you’ll never wake up and all the while being unable to protect yourself in any other way than staying awake.
You get tired. I am tired.
But planning helped me survive. I planned everything in my life, how use the money I had and how to create a better future. The problem is that because I plan everything, and life rarely follows my detailed and perfect plan, I am constantly failing at everything. I fail at getting up when I’m supposed to. I fail doing the exercise I want to. I fail working as many hours as I planned. I fail eating what I planned to eat. I fail talking to the people I want to. I fail at trying to be happy even when times are tough. I fail at overcoming my loneliness. I fail saving up money to buy clothes instead of the ones I have that are broken. I fail to cook a cake as well as I planned. I fail to walk to the library in the amount of time I should be able to walk that distance. I fail building my website. I failed at writing better. I fail at remembering things I planned to do.
When you fail this much, you end up thinking you are a failure. I did. I know I am failure, because I fail at everything I try to do.
But that’s not right. I plan so very much and it’s just not logical to think you can live your life according to a plan you make. Life happens and things don’t end up the way you think they ought to.
I get so very stressed trying to plan everything ahead of time, and even more stressed every time I fail, because when I fail, I have to make a new plan. I am constantly planning and re-planning. I plan so much I forget what’s happening around me. I forget to enjoy. I forget that it’s okay to be happy even when your life isn’t.
I need to stop planning as much as I do. I know. I want to.
The thing is, sometimes planning for the future is helpful and good. There’s a balance I need to find. A very important balance, because if you go to either extreme – plan too much or plan too little – you get sucked in to a spiral of fear. I believe so, at least. Whether we are afraid of planning or not planning, it’s just two sides of the same coin.
Stopping, at least to me, feels a little like struggling against an addiction. My brain instantly starts planning in my head and I have to remind myself quite adamantly not to plan. It makes me feel horrible! It’s like a battle against my own brain, which honestly feels very much like shouting at a wall.
I’m trying to be forgiving, though. I want to let go of the burden of planning ahead and to start enjoying the experiences in my life. I know my head is trying to protect me, as it has done for my entire life. I love my mind for that, but it’s too big a burden for it to carry. It’s time to let life happen.
I have many things I want to do in life but planning for it won’t make it happen. Doing whatever we can and what makes us happy at the present moment, that’s what makes things happen.
I am tired of feeling like a failure all the time too. I think, if I stopped planning so much I would feel less like a failure. Failing is okay if we use it to grow and become better than we were, but it’s not okay to just use failure as way of self-abuse.
To be completely honest with you guys, I am not sure how to stop planning. I can’t just stop thinking, but I guess I can allow thoughts happen and then let it go. Pretend it was someone else who thought that particular thought. Just because I defined it as my thought it doesn’t mean I have to keep it or even like it or agree with it. It was just a random thought. Because, if I start planning that I’ll stop planning, I will fail every time I plan something and it’s time to stop feeling like a failure.
I am not sure how long this will be a struggle, but I can only accept that it is. I can’t change in a second and stop planning, because my brain is attracted to planning like a moth to flame. I have to start with just letting my brain plan, be grateful I want to protect myself and then just move on from the thought that I don’t agree with. What else can anyone do? I want to change from a constant failure mentality to a constant success mindset. I am not failing when I plan, even though I want to stop, I am just trying to protect myself because I am afraid.
It’s okay to be afraid, it’s not okay to have my entire life run by this fear. I want to focus on gratitude, because gratitude feels like the best way not to be run by fear.
Gratitude is the one thing I never had all these years, so it seems like the best way to rebel against my previous mindset.
I was always spiteful, afraid and felt like victim. I didn’t have anything except debt, I lost everything I planned on having – it was like the whole world was always fighting me at every step of the way.
Now, I want to feel gratitude, because how else can I break that pattern? I am grateful that I have a mother who took me in when I had nothing, I am grateful that I am paying off my debt a little more every month and I am grateful I have this computer so that I can write every day. I am grateful I have this blog as a creative and emotional outlet, and I am grateful I have the opportunity to grow and improve myself
There is so much to be grateful for and I will need to remind myself every day of the good things in my life right now. If not, I will always be afraid of what the future brings.
Sure, I have to remind myself all the time to be grateful of the present moment and not get caught up in a spiral of fear about the future, but hopefully one day I won’t have to remind myself as often. I think I will always have to remind myself once in a while, but that doesn’t make me a failure – it makes me a growing and changing human being.