Plans are not set in stone

What you need may not be what you think

I think that that most of us reading this are at the age where we feel like we are doing what
we think we need to do, but not what we actually need to do.

Coming from an academically rigid college town on the outskirts of Los Angeles,
California, it always seemed like my path was clearly laid out for me. I would finish high
school, go to a four-year university, get a graduate degree, then start a career. Life would fall
into place from there.

That was my plan. During November of my senior year, I applied to the University of
Oregon, the University of La Verne and the University of Manitoba. I got into all three, with
the two state-side schools offering me substantial financial aid. The path was laid out in front
of me.

Hesitant about moving to Winnipeg, I accepted the offer from the University of La Verne.
Shortly after the calendar turned to March 13, 2020.

The early months of the pandemic were tough in California. I finished high school at 10
p.m. on a Wednesday, slumped on a couch. My future felt like it was paused.

During summer 2020, I decided to defer from La Verne until they could assure in-person
classes. The week-by-week flipping from asynchronous to synchronous brought no peace of
mind to myself or any of my classmates going through the same process.

I allowed myself to realize that my plan was not necessary for me to succeed.

By September, things were looking up. I was nannying two brilliant girls, working at a
preschool and enjoying time off from university. However, I still felt as if some things were
missing in my life.

I realized what those things were in February of 2021. A few mornings a week, a good
friend and I would hike the Sycamore Canyon trail, a seven-kilometre path with steep
elevation. She and I talked about complex things in our lives, as well as books we were
reading. We spent hours getting away from electronics and truly enjoying nature. Hiking
made us feel good, and thankfully we didn’t run into some of the more poisonous California

Moreover, I was able to be with someone I genuinely enjoyed spending time with. Looking
back on that period of time, I can truly say that I was doing what my mind and body needed
me to do.

During the mornings when we didn’t hike, as well as after my friend left for school, I spent
a couple of hours on the deck tanning with a book. California spring — February through
April — is the perfect climate to spend hours in the sun. I spent hours outside reading book
after book, filling my Goodreads shelf in no time at all.

I also read while watching the girls I nannied. We would read together. I would read to
them and I read while they did their work, even half-reading while they watched Good Luck
Charlie and Big Time Rush.

Still, I felt as if I was missing something.

I realized that my mind wasn’t getting the workout it desired. I needed to learn. I registered
for some asynchronous, interest-piquing courses at Pasadena City College and began
learning at my own pace.

The rest of the school year went by without a hitch. I loved every day that I spent hiking,
tanning and learning.

The pandemic halted the seven years of competitive figure skating I had under my belt.
Then in July of 2021, a former co-worker asked me if I wanted to work as a figure skating
coach at the ice rink where I had skated my entire life. I accepted, and I absolutely loved coaching. I made my own schedule and wage, and I got to pass on my love of ice skating to kids.

I was doing everything that I needed. I was being active, working, doing things I found joy
in and exercising my mind.

So, you are probably confused about how I ended up in Winnipeg. My life was
established, and I was doing what made me happy — and in the right place to be a sun-

I believe that the best way to get everything out of the short years we have on earth is to
prioritize things that make us happy.

I wanted change. So, I reapplied to the U of M and decided to move up north. However, I
am here for school, as my parents emphasize the importance of getting a degree.

While I do think that degrees are important, I think you should pursue a degree in a
subject that you are passionate about.

Thinking about the past three years, I can see how happy I was. I needed change, but was
that move what I actually needed? In some ways. It taught me independence and made me
insanely grateful for what I had at home.

So you may be wondering, “Sarah, what is your point?” My point is this: things you actually
need, like socialization, fresh air, exercise and doing whatever you enjoy doing are just as
important as doing what you think you need.

Do what makes you happy. Get that degree in whatever subject will make you happiest.
Go on that trip, get that pet, read that book.

Prioritize what brings you joy and don’t let life’s stress overwhelm you in the pursuit of what you
think you need.