I visited California to see my grandparents. The trip also took me to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Seeing so many college students walking to class, I thought I might feel a sense of longing.
Instead I felt calm. Meeting with my ex-professors, I thought they would have questions about why I left school. In reality, their questions were focused on my vacation. I excitedly explained my new plans to return.
I would take a couple classes back in Illinois. Then, at the end of the year, I would move back to California to finish my last class along with my senior project.
I told my plan to as many people as possible. Friends and family, advisers and professors, ex-coworkers and boss. One listener responded with a unique piece of advice:
“Don’t live in the wreckage of your future”.
I already understand not living in the wreckage of my past. Dropping out has transformed from a negative experience into a humbling one. Moving forward has become more important.
Which is why the advice surprised me. Could my intense focus on the future be harmful? I thought back to when I enrolled in a track to get a Master’s degree. When my plans fell through, I ended up falling down with them. I didn’t even earn my Bachelor’s.
For me, this advice is about not clinging too hard to a set path. I ought to reconcile with the uncertainty of life. I might not end up in California in 2017. I might not get my degree before my 10 year school reunion.
I tried to internalize the advice and spent the rest of my trip in the present. Hiking up the hills, running down the beach, and visiting all the tourist shops. I ate good food with friends and family, and celebrated my 27th birthday, one of my most memorable yet.