Three individuals in their 20s talk about their timelines for life and their diverging journeys.

Timeline: a graphic representation of the passage of time as a line.

At least that’s how Google categorizes it. And that’s often how we plan our lives out. But, life isn’t always linear; it’s full of ups and downs and zigzags.

I interviewed three individuals who are all at different stages in their 20s. Each one crafted their own path at one point or another, and each one has discovered the beauty of the unpredictability life throws at you.


Shiany Maldonado, 28. Los Angeles, CA

When you were in high school, what did your future self look like? 

S: I graduated in 2009. Back then, [I envisioned] my future self married at 20 and had kids by 22! I didn’t have a boyfriend at the time, and I wanted kids five years from that moment. Hilarious. Oh, and no, I had no idea what my future self’s occupation was, but I still definitely wanted to go to college. How I thought that was going to work? Ya got me! 

How did that plan shift?

S: Graduation day I found out I messed up on my college applications. So, although I got accepted to the schools I applied to, my mistake made my applications incomplete so they couldn’t accept me. My plan was trash now. 

What was your initial timeline for college? 

S: My timeline was the typical four year bachelors … I wanted to be in the medical field, but because I was now in community college, I didn’t know how to navigate my way through. I went to a counselor and it turned out I was taking all the wrong classes. My projectory date to leave community college with what I needed was six years. Six years to leave community college! So that wasn’t going to pan out as planned. I had to shift my timeline again. I talked to my mom and she told me to look into nursing schools. Turns out momma really does know best. 

Was becoming a nurse your dream career? 

S: I’m actually still searching for my dream career. I love being a nurse, but it’s a huge umbrella, and I haven’t figured out what my niche is under that umbrella just yet. There’s lots more exploring to do. I’m just taking it a day at a time.

How did relationships play into the concept of a timeline?

S: After high school, marriage was out of the picture. I didn’t have any serious relationships. It wasn’t until year two with my now husband that I was sure I wanted marriage. I was ready by 25ish. I had a big girl job, and I was moved out of my parents’ house. But of course, that didn’t go as planned either. The guy made me wait another two years! But it’s ok, it was worth it.

Did sticking to a timeline ever make things more difficult? 

S: Looking back, sticking to a timeline for someone like me brought a lot of pressure. I didn’t even necessarily want to go to college right after high school … This timeline also made things difficult because it created expectations from literally everyone. Even now, everyone wants to know what I’m doing with my life. I’m just living it, ya know?

What is some advice on how to live your life motivated without constricting yourself to set plans?

S: Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a super free spirit. I like some sense of life organization, but I don’t like the idea of constricting my future… the way I see it, as long as I’m not going backwards, I’m doing great! There is nothing wrong with just living your life the way it is without knowing your next step. 


Noah Wisniewski, 20. Dearborn, Michigan

When you were in high school, what did future Noah look like? 

N: Future Noah was honestly … a mess. Everyone around me was thinking about college and scholarships, but I waited until the very last minute to apply and do research because thinking about the future scarred me, since I didn’t know what I wanted.

How did that work out?

N: There comes a point … when you have to make a decision about your future. Whether it be to throw yourself into college, work or take a gap year to figure things out. I considered all my options until I finally decided to go to college. 

How has sticking to that specific plan made you stronger?

N: I feel like I have grown so much. I am so much more confident with myself and everything seemed to just fall into place. If I wouldn’t have stuck to this timeline, I probably would still be at home pursuing acting, and I just don’t think that would have benefited me.

What is your take on timelines as a whole?

N: If something is meant to be, it’ll be! You just need to work your hardest and put a lot of effort into things, because then, the timeline will fall into place even if there are some bumps in the road.


Tierney Franklin, 27. Detroit, Michigan 

When you were in high school, what did your future self look like? 

T: In high school, I think I wanted to do anime, so I thought I would have my own anime series by 25, married by 27 and have a bunch of kids between 27 and 30. 

Did that plan change?

T: Vastly. My love for anime drawing transformed into fashion drawing and now fashion design is my current passion amongst other interests. I don’t have my own anime series nor am I married, which honestly I couldn’t imagine being married with kids right now. 

What was your timeline for college? 

T: I thought I would graduate by the time I was 22, but my curious mind had many phases.  [After anime], I thought I wanted to do film, then acting — pretty much every expressive art form I thought I wanted to do, but fashion design stuck the most … So exploring what I really truly liked, I guess was a setback in a sense because I didn’t end up graduating until I was 25. 

Did things stay according to plan, or not?

T: Things definitely didn’t go according to plan for me at all. I was in college way longer than I thought I would be, and [I’m] considering going back full time to get a second degree in architecture. But, I’m learning that all of that is okay, and all of our journeys are different.

How has drifting from the timeline of life made you stronger?

T: If I stuck to my timeline, I wouldn’t have discovered all these things I really like and enjoy. I’m now taking some courses to eventually study architecture, and my whole life I thought I hated math…[But] now, I’m killing physics. I’m in calculus and I love it. 

 What is some advice on how to live your life with or without timelines?

T: Do not box yourself into one category. The limit doesn’t exist (calculus taught me that), but also the timeline doesn’t exist. You can be whoever you want to be at any time of your life.