When Plan ‘A’ Doesn’t Work… What’s Next?

By: Lauren Hardgrove, Unsettled: Bali alum 

“I don’t know how to explain it. You’re perfect on paper.” Days before I booked my Unsettled trip to Bali, the guy I had been dating ended things with me by uttering those now infamous words. Perfect on paper. Like waking up from a bad dream, those three words shook me awake.

I like to think that I am a rational and conscientious person; I think before I speak, I love making plans, and I am usually well prepared. In college, I created plans A, B, C, and D for my future. (I didn’t follow any of them – but that’s another story.)

There have been a few times in my life, though, when my intuition has screamed so loudly to drop everything and go that I simply could not ignore her. 

The redirection is always caused by a rejection of sorts. 

The first time I felt this way, it was when I was cut from my high school’s varsity soccer team as a senior. To our complete shock – and my utter dismay – they cut five seniors in favor of five freshmen. Soccer was my passion, and I wasn’t sure who I would be without it. I decided shortly thereafter that I wouldn’t be applying to any colleges in California (my home state). A few months later, I committed to a university 3,000 miles away, in Washington DC. I am thankful every day for that redirection. 

As a senior in college, I was the one doing the rejecting. This time, I rejected the pressure and expectation of the woman I thought I was supposed to be. Since the time I was a little girl, I planned on becoming a lawyer and taking over my dad’s firm one day. Every course I took in college, every internship, every LSAT class, prepared me for that future. But one day, I woke up and I realized that I had been suppressing a part of myself that didn’t want to be silenced anymore – she wanted to travel and ingest knowledge and go on adventures. So I bought a one-way ticket to Madrid and spent the year teaching English in Europe, forgoing law school. (Sorry, Plan A.)

I’m not sure why being told I was perfect on paper by a guy I briefly dated struck such a nerve, but I’m happy it did. Six days later, I signed up for Unsettled. A few weeks after that, I hopped on a plane to Denpasar. The days leading up to the trip, I was incredibly anxious. It wasn’t the right time at work. I might not hit my quota for the quarter if I go. I should have more in savings first. People might laugh at me for doing the most cliché thing ever and going to Bali to repair a bruised ego and heart. I could think of a million reasons why not, but only one reason why: Every piece of my being was telling me to go. On my way to the airport, I closed my eyes in the car and whispered “I don’t know what will happen Laur, but I promise you that you will not regret this.” 

My intuition was right. She always is, when I choose to listen to her. Bali was one of the most magical experiences of my life. I met people who embraced the way I see the world and inspired me to dream bigger, to love harder, to think wilder, and to create a life filled with joy. My Unsettled family don’t think I’m perfect because they see me. They get me. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what life is all about? Finding the ones who want to know you on your best days, your worst days, and all the days in between. 

I thank Bali for reminding me that vulnerability is beautiful, rejection is just a redirection, and to always, always, listen to the voice in your heart. She knows what she’s doing.

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