What to Do When the Unexpected Happens

by Amanda Jewel Warren

The end of May brought changes to many high school seniors as they graduated and made plans for what’s to come. Some of these plans include attending college, joining the military, getting a job, or going to trade school.

Even if you’ve been out of school for a while, you probably have your own plans. Maybe you’ve interviewed for a specific job you’ve been wanting, or you’ve been dating someone you could see a future with. Perhaps you’re buying a house you’ve had your heart set on, or you’re preparing to move to one of your favorite cities. Maybe you’ve got your future all mapped out in your head. But what if what you thought was going to happen, doesn’t?

Life is full of twists and turns. One minute, everything seems to be falling into place, and you see yourself heading in a specific direction. Suddenly and without warning, you’re caught off guard as all the cards come crashing down around you. You find yourself feeling baffled, distraught, and afraid. What do you do now?

How do you deal with the way things could have been versus the reality of the present?

First things first: cut yourself some slack. It’s perfectly normal to grieve for what you wanted that never came to be. When life doesn’t go as planned, there is nothing wrong with feeling sad or disappointed that things fell through. Give yourself time to sit with your feelings, know they are valid, and take time to heal.

Next, step back and reassess the situation. Sometimes we sugar coat the things we want or see them through rose colored glasses. What were some hardships that might have happened if things had continued on their track? What would the reality look like versus the fantasy played out in your head? Maybe there was something you were missing that you didn’t see before. It’s possible things actually worked out for the better in the long run.

From there, see this as an opportunity to go a new direction. Once you have reassessed and taken notice of some of the truths you may have overlooked, where can you go now? Do you want to pursue something similar to what you originally wanted? Or maybe now, you can try something new? This could be your chance to do something you had always thought about doing but were too afraid to try. Now could be the best time to go for it.

Finally, look for the silver lining and the lesson. What is one good thing that came out of this turn of events? Is there something you learned that you could use in the future? There is most often something to be thankful for, and everything can be viewed as a learning experience. The positive outcome could be as simple as having a little more time to get other things in order. This situation could teach you something about yourself you didn’t realize before. Combining the two together aids in making you more resilient and adaptable.

Although, plans suddenly changing can be terribly disappointing, knowing the next steps makes transitioning away from those plans a bit easier. Work through the grief, reassess the situation, acknowledge new opportunities, and combine gratefulness with the learning experience. Doing this enables you to embrace change as a means of growing, instead of throwing up your hands and quitting altogether.