What do you do when Plan A falls apart?

Written by Liana Rosenman, Co-Founder of Project HEAL

I am not going to tell you things will get better over night. I am not going to tell you that terrible circumstances you obviously don’t deserve are not going to come your way. Bad things will happen; I can practically guarantee it. Trust me, I know firsthand. What I will tell you, however, is that there are ways to live above these unforeseen circumstances. You can make it through the unexpected situations; you can come out stronger than ever and better equipped for the storms that will inevitably come your way in the future.

25-letters-copyRecently, I got accepted into a federally funded scholarship program that recruits, trains, mentors, and supports individuals at the graduate level who are pursuing early childhood special education teaching certificates (birth--grade 2). As a candidate I would receive 100% tuition support and a modest stipend each semester. In the acceptance letter, it mentioned that I was one of forty-three candidates. I was under the assumption that the forty-three candidates were attending this university. Well, I assumed wrong. I was one of forty-three candidates picked in the nation. I felt so honored and blessed. However, those feelings began to fade and feelings of stress and anxiety quickly took over as the Program Director began reciting the requirements of the scholarship. How was I going to make this work? Could I make this work? My thoughts began racing a mile a minute. I quickly began to realize that I was going to have to turn down this once in a lifetime opportunity. I stayed after to talk to the Program Director. We talked about the requirements and strategized ways I could try to make it work. Every option ended the same way, a dead end. As much as I wanted to make this work, I knew deep in my heart that I would have to choose my job or the scholarship. I left that night visibility upset; I wanted and needed to figure out a way to do both. The Program Director gave me a week to think about it, and of course I thought about it. I thought about it over and over again. On the drive home I went through all the options we spoke about, resulting at the same dead end. I came to a conclusion an hour later once I reached my house. I had to decline the scholarship, and would attend the University paying out of pocket in order to keep and succeed in my current job.

A week later I attended the Graduate School Open House. It was an hour and half presentation that ended with registration. I quickly looked over the options for scheduling. My heart sunk. It was like déjà vu, except I already experienced this situation a week earlier. The times classes were offered were impossible for me to attend. After accepting the fact that I could not be part of the scholarship program I now had to accept the fact that I could not attend this University. My heart was set on this University. I had a plan. But planning goes awry when the perfectionist takes over. I spent all this time drafting up the perfect plan, hoping to follow it, and then – BAM – I can’t. And now I’m stuck in the gloom of thinking, “Why did my plan fail? I created it, so why didn’t it happen? Why didn’t I do better? Why is this not what I expected?” I let myself cry. I let myself feel anger, frustration, and disappointment. I thought that there's absolutely nothing positive in the situation. But I strained to see the silver lining. Was it really the best fit for me anyway? One door may have closed, but maybe a window will open, and the whole experience can lead to something even better for me. I slept on it and the next morning I applied to a different university. Fingers crossed I get accepted!

Through this process I learned that I have to consider a plan to be a very rough guideline instead of being “set in stone.” And I have to remind myself that just because I planned for one thing does not mean that there is not room for change to occur.

Sometimes, getting so caught up in your “plan” does the opposite of what it was intended to do. You’re so busy trying to follow a specific plan in one corner, that you miss the bigger possibilities in another corner. Planning is important. But, equally so is flexibility. Stuff is always going to come up. Because the truth is, if Plan A doesn’t work, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet.