It's been a long time since I had a blank year in front of me. 2005 was, as previously mentioned, one of the most scheduled years of my life. I worked full time for the first five months of the year, worked virtually every Saturday for those five months, with a break for a wedding in January (previously scheduled, naturally), lived my happy life with Erin, and was generally pretty predictable. The big excitement of the first half of the year was my trip to Disneyland, which was also well scheduled in advance. (Although not that much in advance - we only decided to go in March on about January 5th.) I had countdowns to things, a sense of time. The first half of the year sped by, and my plans continued to be laid out for me. Weddings, first those of other people, then my own. My wedding, obviously, was the biggest plan I had, and it consumed much of the year. A trip to Hawaii, moving, and settling into a new house, and suddenly the year was all but over.
2004 was not quite as structured, but still had major events that structured my life throughout the year. Although some things ended up on a different time frame than I originally anticipated (hello surgery with one day's notice, how are you?), there were still many things that I had planned in advance for that year. Starting a new job. Moving out. Living with Erin. Some things caught me by surprise (I doubt anything will ever be more surprising than being proposed to), but although the year started out quite differently than it ended (I started the year unemployed and unengaged), I still had some sense of what I'd be doing with myself. It was the summer of many weddings, too, so most of my weekends were spoken for.
2003 was also well-planned, although it didn't really end how I had anticipated. I finished my degree, went to Disneyland, got a real job, began the slow process of becoming an adult. (A process I have no delusions of having made much progress on.) I had intentions for that year, probably more than any other year of my life. The expectations were kind of overwhelming, and in retrospect I'm glad I didn't end up with the life I thought I should have had.
Go back any further, and my life is the predictable nature of a student. Moments of freedom, but a reliable structure that dictated most of my life up until a couple of years ago.
This year, though, is a blank slate. Nothing nailed down, no dates filled into my daytimer, nothing to anticipate. Loose plans float around, but nothing is set in stone, and the freedom is both intoxicating and terrifying. It is now that I really have to start to ask myself what I'm going to do with my life. I am faced with the wide open future that is waiting for me, and I'm not sure what I'm going to fill it with.
But while no plans are yet finalized, ideas float through my head and I try to nail them down, wondering how to choose from the endless options that present themselves to me. I make small decisions here and there - a trip to Vancouver here, a wedding there. But the bigger things - the long-awaited trip to Britain, bigger plans for my novel, grander schemes for my writing in general - seem too large to begin.
One idea nags at me, wanting to be turned into a plan. I waffle on the subject, wait for validation from others, beg for other people to join me. It seems both infinitely do-able and totally impossible simultaneously, and I change my mind by the moment while deep down knowing that I will do it, in some shape or form.
And slowly, my year begins to take form in front of me. It is hazy, no question, but shapes begin to appear, filling me with excitement and fear for the days ahead. I don't know what lies ahead any more. My life is not planned out on the page in front of me. I cannot predict where I will be six months, a year from now. I do not know what I will accomplish in that time. All I do know is that somehow or other, I will find out. And until I begin to fill it with my life, a blank slate waits for me, full of potential. I only hope that I can live up to its promise.