When you live a life of routine, a life of plans, backup plans, and backup backup plans;

When you have the comfort of knowing where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing a month, a year, two years from now;

When you have stability, responsibilities, and obligations;

When you think you are finally ahead of the curve,

The curve finds you.

All of your old plans, responsibilities, and obligations are changed to prepare for, approach, and ride out the curve.

You’re in survival mode.

For me, it started with graduate school. All of my academia, training, and experience over the previous four years had led me toward further education. I had completed my checklist: Find an apartment, register for classes, say goodbye to my friends and loved ones, and move eight hours away to a big, bustling city.

For a year, I studied, rehearsed, and performed constantly. Day in and day out, I always knew where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing. Before I knew it, August had turned to May and the first year of school was over.

That summer, I had planned to move out of my small one-bedroom apartment into a larger two-bedroom townhouse that was closer to school and in a safer community — or so I thought.

The move went smoothly. All of the heavy furniture rested in their proper places, and all I had left to unpack were some boxes of dishes and clothes.

School was set to start in about two weeks, and I was ready to finish unpacking and start prepping for the first day of my final year of school.

On the fourth morning of living in my new townhouse, I found out that my car was nearly stolen in the middle of the night. If the security officer hadn’t stopped the men from bashing in my window and chased them away, I surely would have been without a car.

The curve had found me. This incident was the second of its kind— a few months prior, I was robbed of every penny I had. Enough was enough. In that moment, I was forced to make a split-second decision that resulted in me coming home with my family, who was visiting and helping me move, leaving all but a small bag of clothes and toiletries behind. My safety came first.

I was in survival mode.

I abandoned everything. All the plans I had made, all the important dates I had written in my calendar, all the auditions I had lined up, all the music I had to learn, all the people I had met and connections I had made were instantly left behind.

“I am a quitter. I am a failure.”

For the first time in my life, I was back to square one. I was thrust into the dreaded “real world” ahead of schedule. No job. No place of my own. No plans.

I was relieved to be home where I was safe, but this was not part of my plan. I wasn’t supposed to be here without a Master’s Degree and the grandest of stories to tell.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve had to uncomfortably and apologetically explain my situation to old friends, acquaintances, family members, and nearly everyone who has seen me in public.

Now that I’m back, “what are my plans?” “Where am I going to live?” “Why couldn’t I simply have found a safe neighborhood to live in while I finished grad school?” “Do I have a job?” “Do I have any auditions lined up?” “When am I going back to school?”

All of these questions made me ask a few of my own. “Did I make the right decision?” “When am I going back to school?” “Why couldn’t my plans just work out like they were supposed to?”

Subsequently, self-doubt set in. I began to question my place in the world. I stopped seeing my situation as something that happened and started seeing it as who I am. Defeated, I sighed to myself, “I am a quitter. I am a failure.”

A couple of months later, after facing self-doubt, disappointment, confusion, uncertainty, dead ends, and new beginnings, as I sit in my familiar childhood home, I’ve learned that there are no immediate answers to my own questions.

And the thing is — that’s okay.

You don’t always have to have a plan and three backup plans.

Sometimes, a seemingly straight path suddenly veers to the left.

Sometimes, you miss the turnoff and have to use a map to reroute.

Sometimes, the path will take you to the edge of a cliff.

Sometimes, there will be no clear path at all.

Sometimes, after you’ve tackled and survived the steepest curve, you have to let someone else drive for a while.

No matter what path you’re on or not on, you should understand something:

Your personal path does not define you.

A change in course does not mean you have failed.

And you are NOT a failure.