Gender & Identity, Life

Filling notebooks with plans for my future was my favorite thing, until all of those plans changed

Just because you write it down, doesn't mean things will turn out that way. Planning doesn't always work.

Some women don’t go out without lipstick in their bag. Some of them always take their perfume, a photo, a trinket, or whatever else makes them feel confident. When I was a teenager, I couldn’t care less about lipsticks and perfumes, but I would never go out without a notebook.

I used to choose the most beautiful notebooks — with dainty designs, ribbons, pockets, or gold edges. Overall, I spent more time choosing notebooks than I did on my wedding dress. It seemed to me that my “profound” thoughts and “ambitious” plans deserved something special, like diamonds that deserve the best setting. I used to write to-do lists and tasks for upcoming weeks and months; noted down books to read and films to watch. I even drafted plans for phone calls, since chattiness wasn’t my strong point.

By the age of 18, notebooks became an integral part of my life (and my bag). I filled them with homework tasks, schedules, grocery lists and quotes. My life was steady and normal, so I started to believe that I all I ever needed to do was stick to my plans.

Too bad life doesn’t work that way.

Planning didn’t make me smarter and didn’t help me take off my rose-colored glasses. I got married at the age of 19 and I thought (i.e. planned) that it would last forever. I thought that we would buy a house, travel, have a cat and a cute baby with plump cheeks. My plans included working abroad, hiking together, exploring other countries and sharing dreams over a cup of tea. In my notebook, there were no ticks next to the words “scandals,” “violence” or “frustration.” It didn’t contain the line “divorce and become a single mother” either.

However, life went on. I got another notebook, not as pretty as the previous ones, and scaled back my ambitions. I started to keep a diary, but I was too scared to plan,  so instead, I expressed my dreams with the words like “it would be so nice if this or that happened.” As strange as it seems, this turned out to be more efficient. When I looked through my notes a few years later, I realized that almost all of my timid wishes had come true.

Since long-term planning didn’t live up to my expectations, I limited myself to grocery and to-do lists, household chores and other insignificant things. My notebooks started to look plain and boring. Besides, since I considered myself a believing person, I forced myself to rely on God when thinking about the distant future. Some people call it “living from day to day,” without implying the spiritual or religious element, but the core idea remains the same. In the beginning, I was scared asking myself: how can I rely on Him without knowing what will happen tomorrow? How will I earn my living? How will I have a family? How will I cope with this uncertainty that knocked the bottom out of my life and threw me into a panic? Slowly, step by step, I learned to think less about tomorrow and to be grateful for what I have today.

Was it easy? Of course not. Sometimes I felt like banging my head against a wall in despair and hopelessness when the future seemed like a grey, gloomy fog without a single glimpse of hope. Sometimes I felt indifferent about my future because it was impossible to control. Sometimes I had outbursts of hope and believed that everything would change for the better soon. It was a very unpleasant process, but is self-perfection possible without heartache and distress?

Now, in hindsight, I see why all my planning failed. My system was based on my own view of an ideal future and didn’t take into account other scenarios, perhaps more painful, but at the same time more favorable. After the divorce, I accidentally met some people with whom I started to work from home with for the next few years (although I say “accidentally,” now I tend to think it was all planned and calculated, only not by me). This income allowed me not only to spend time with my child but also to start traveling and to open new horizons. I found friends who became my pillars of support in hard times. I acquired new skills that turned out to be useful in my current work. Now, I live in a country that was never on my list – I never saw myself living in Saudi Arabia – but this is proof that sometimes things happen not according to the plan but in the best possible way.

As for my personal life, it took me a few years after the divorce to be able to say, “O God, please ignore my silly plans, high expectations and unreasonable hopes. Just send me the person who will be better for me in this life and hereafter.” Now, I am as happy as can be.