If I’ve learned anything the past few months, it is that there is no way to plan life. This may seem like an obvious conclusion, but I believe to some degree we are all guilty of assuming it is possible. I had done a pretty excellent job believing I could pull off a fully planned early-twenties life until now. I spent two years of undergrad studying for the LSAT, applying to law schools, sifting through acceptances and planing every course of the next ten years of my life. I graduated from Biola University, packed my car and moved across the country to start school.
The plan was to go to law school and after some years of experience, land my dream job at International Justice Mission to fight global human trafficking at a legal level.
Then I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Four days before school started.
For this Type-A, passionate life-planner, the worst part of dealing with cancer has been the inconvenience of it. Life stopped. Lame.
I talked with my professors and doctors about what it would look like to be in school and go through surgery and treatment. I think they were all a little confused as to why I was even considering doing both. To me, however, it was the only option. After all, it was the plan!
One of my favorite “welcome to reality” conversations was over the phone with my ENT after I met with him to talk about surgery. Anyone who has talked to me during this process knows that my ENT is now one of my favorite people. His Indian accent and no-nonsense, yet compassionate spirit makes me happy. He rocks.
He called me and said (in his fantastic accent):
Lydia, my secretary said you scheduled surgery on Friday so you would have the weekend to recover and be back in school on Monday?! Lydia, that is not going to happen. I don’t think you understand how invasive this surgery is. You’re not going to school three days after surgery!
I laughed thinking, “But he doesn’t know me. I’ll be back on my feet in no time!” Looking back at the last three months, I can’t help but laugh at myself. Seriously, Lydia? The number of appointments, trips to various hospitals, radiation treatment and emotional strain my body has been through, and I seriously thought I could tackle my first year of law school in the midst of this chaos? I’m all for optimism, but that was beyond unrealistic.
One of the things my dad taught me growing up was the importance of commitment and seeing things through to the end. I distinctly remember one time when I was little, and I didn’t want to go to soccer practice. My dad nearly dragged me to practice. He calmly told me:
Lydia, you committed to this team. You gave them your word you’d be there and you’re going to finish this season with them.
While I’m sure there were many other occasions where we had similar conversations, I can vividly remember that moment. There was a moment of clarity and understanding that followed. I grew up to understand and value the importance of following through and committing fully, whether it be activities, projects, school or relationships, I am thankful for my dad’s influence in making commitment a priority.
However, with this mindset, one of the hardest parts of walking through cancer and taking a step back from school is dealing with feeling like a failure. There are days I get sick to my stomach thinking about the fact that I’m not in school. I committed to it, and I struggle justifying not being there. I know this may seem a little bizarre, but it’s true. I haven’t said “no” to anything that I’ve committed myself to, and I don’t back out of things that I’ve carefully chosen to participate in. It’s even more difficult now that I’m done with treatment for now and in the job hunt. Not being in school and not having a job makes me feel like I’ve messed up somewhere. Spending hours upon hours alone has its benefits, but it can also lend itself to some pretty intense internal turmoil. The struggle lately has been mental and emotional.
Changing the plan–Love Does
In my mind, setting into action a ten-year plan was my way of ensuring that I was impacting the world for good the best I knew how. However, I am beginning to think that I undermined the impact of love in action on a daily basis. I’ve been married to the idea of a plan of grandeur and dangit, I was going to see it through to the end. But, what if it’s the little acts of love that create a story of grandeur that impact the world beyond what we could have ever planned for?
Bob Goff said it beautifully in his new book, Love Does:
We need to stop plotting the course and instead just land the plane on our plans to make a difference by getting to the ‘do’ part of faith. That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.
This slight shift in thinking has started to make a dent in my steadfast law school plans. If I had started law school this fall without cancer’s interruption, I would have without a doubt, completed the three years without thinking twice. Again, I committed to it, so in my mind, the only option is to follow through. However, life stopped for a year, and I have nothing but time to reevaluate my aspirations and motives.
Don’t get me wrong, my heart is still very broken by the issue of modern-slavery and my dream is still to work for International Justice Mission one day. However, much to my surprise, I have been slowly digesting the idea that the means to this end might be different than I initially thought.
What if I capitalize on my passion for writing, visual media, marketing, public relations, etc. to make an impact? Would this be less impactful than obtaining a law degree to fight human trafficking on a legal level? What gave me the idea that using the gifts and passions I have already obtained would not make an impact? If I learned to adapt the idea of love does into whatever profession I end up in, how could I fail?
I am certainly not saying I am walking away from law school, but I am also not saying that I will be returning to my “blessed” ten-year plan come next fall. I am saying that I have cancer to thank for forcing me to “land the plane on my plans,” and take a step back. I am looking for a job in the interim (and beyond, depending), and remaining in prayer over this time and my future. The “plan” right now is simply: love does.