Dear Freshmen: Your First Draft Is Probably Not Your Final Draft

Hannah Zeller, Writer - The Reporter

Dear Freshman,

       The first draft of this letter was absolutely terrible. My thoughts were entirely disjointed, I had attempted to connect completely unrelated topics, and in the end I had a not-so-finished product that I felt totally dissatisfied with. The problem was, I refused to change my topic, mostly because in my head it seemed like the perfect thing to write about. Up in the intricate menagerie of 2 a.m. shower thoughts and pseudo-deep musings I call my psyche, there exists a deep rooted stubbornness I just can’t seem to shake, especially when it comes to planning. Be it an idea for a story, my next vacation, or something menial like, say, the rest of my life, I build up big expectations in my head, set a course for myself, and stick to it so securely that super glue manufacturers are wondering how I do it.

       See, adaptability has never been my strong suit. I am in no way a spontaneous person, not only because I dislike being out of control, but because I also really really enjoy planning things. My friends and family frequently tease me, because I’ll be outrageously giddy about planning an event, but ambivalent on the actual day. To me, the fun is in methodically organizing something, getting everything to fit into place in a way that maximizes the payoff, whatever it may be. It can be a wonderful trait to have, mostly because I’ll gladly volunteer for the work most people consider a chore, and when I do finally come up with the perfect plan, I’m more than happy to spend hours focusing on details to get it damn-near perfect.

       While a lot of the time my tendency to excessively plan and prepare can be helpful, there are instances (see The-Draft-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named) when it can be a major hindrance. I’m less likely to consider that my initial plan or idea isn’t the most perfect one available. I’m biased towards my own first thought. I’ve gotten lucky just enough times that it seems like my initial plan is the end all be all, and that any substitute is second-rate, but this absolutely is not the case. The rational part of my brain is highly aware that life is unpredictable, and that being able to adapt to situations as they come is just part of the human experience. However, the much smaller, yet somehow infinitely louder irrational part of my brain is screaming, and in the moment it seems that my brain will be eternally stuck in it’s terrible twos, throwing temper tantrums when it doesn’t get its way.

     For some, this feeling is completely familiar, and trust me, I know just how frustrating it can be. But maybe this concept doesn’t resonate with you at all. Maybe you’re the type of person who can change plans on a whim, or forgo having any sort of strategy in the first place. More often than not, you’re happy just going with the flow, and are satisfied knowing that the chips will fall where they may. While planners like me can sometimes yearn for this trait, it can be equally as frustrating. Being seen as so easy going can mean your voice isn’t as heard in group situations. Especially when mixed with procrastination tendencies, it can mean sometimes scrambling to complete tasks, or result in all of your work piling up until you have to pull the mother of all all-nighters to get it all done.

     Or maybe, you fit neither of these extremes. Depending on the circumstance, you can see yourself in either light, and you’ve experienced the good and the bad of both. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, there are wonderful benefits and aggravating obstacles to both sides. Like anything in life, there is good and bad to be found in each side, and it seems that the best of both worlds is found somewhere in the balance between them. So maybe you don’t have single planning bone in your body, that’s fine. There are steps you can take (and apps you can download) that can add a little organization to your life without sacrificing your spontaneity.  Planning can be a wonderful tool, but it doesn’t need to be excessive to be effective.

     As for me, and extreme planners like me, the challenge becomes learning to release control and every so often just enjoy the ride.However begrudgingly, I do eventually adapt to life’s unexpected hiccups. It’s not something I’m fantastic at yet, but I’m going to keep trying, and I will never let it stop me from finding the best solutions to problems and coming up with the “perfect plan.” I’m slowly but surely recognizing that life doesn’t follow a script, even if the life I’ve planned out in my mind does. Things that make sense in my head or on paper probably won’t work out in the real world, and that’s okay. They don’t have to. In fact, I’m probably benefiting more by having to adapt to a failed scenario, because it will force me to think far more critically about the situation, and truly consider ALL of the alternative possibilities. In the end, I know I’ll be better for it, even if in the moment breaking that super glue grip seems unbearable.

     Life doesn’t always go according to plan, but that won’t stop me from trying to plan it.  I’ll come up with a million vacation itineraries I’ll never use, a plethora of Pinterest boards for weddings and showers that years into my future, and five-year plans for careers I won’t have an interest in by next month. And all of that is okay, as long as I keep in mind that it’s also okay when those things change. Just like it’s okay when first drafts come out so mangled you’re fairly certain you wrote it whilst driving a bumper car. Maybe it’s just a sign that better ideas are to come. After all, what else are second drafts for?

                                                                                           Your Fellow Freshman,