Plan to be Surprised

“I don’t know why I never thought that would apply to me?”  I told a girlfriend, over dinner.  It’s been over a month since I’ve been back from my month of writing and I am still chipping away at seeing friends that I either haven’t seen since I was out-of-town or haven’t seen at all this year.  When we catch up and talk about my leap of faith, it leads to great discussions.  Friends are intrigued, understanding, supportive and/ or inspired by my pursuit.

“If my eighteen year old self knew that I wasn’t doing what I thought I’d be doing by now, he’d freak,” one of my friends told me.  After I speak of this leap, my friends start to think about their lives in relation to it and my reasoning for taking the leap leads to a conversation about our expectations in life and the reality of where we find ourselves.  I’ve had a lot of conversations on this topic in recent weeks.  Every time I think of reality versus expectations I am reminded of a scene from “500 Days of Summer,” which does very well to show the expectations we have in our minds versus the reality of how life unfolds.

500 Days Of Summer movie image Joeseph Gordon Levit and Zooey Deschanel

(Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen this movie you should.  And if you haven’t seen this movie note that this video reveals a plot point.)

I have always loved movies that have unexpected or open-ended endings because I know that that’s how life works.  And even with that knowledge, I forget.  This leap is teaching me a lot.  I find that a lot of my friends are on the cusp of life calling them to take the same leap, yet they haven’t realized it or are still figuring out what to do about it.  Or trying to figure out/ negotiate how to make things work on an old operating system that was created by a self that they no longer are.  While I have written about my growing pains with this goal, I re-think and re-assess my perspectives often.  I search for meaning to help me get though the unknown that I am choosing to embrace.  What stops me in my tracks on many occasions is the constant thought that I am not where I expected to be and I wonder, how did I get here?  I have thought about my life and how easy it would be if I decided in March not to take that leap at all.  But, when I trace my steps back, I know I am right where I need to be.  And I am reminded that I know how the other path plays out, because I lived it.  And while it’s hard to trust that life will work out, one of the main things I realized in my month of writing is seeing how everything in my life has led me here.

Nothing that exist in nature is linear, yet we think linearly.  I am starting to think that’s the problem, how we think.  We can plan our life with steps A, B and C, connecting the dots in a linear fashion because we love straight lines.  But, life isn’t linear.  I think of all my mentors and elders that I known who had their life planned by was disrupted by death, car accidents, births, injury, career changes/ shifts, life changes and desires changing.  I know many stories of lives that have been anything but linear.  Yet, when I think about my future I see a straight line.  “It’s probably best to imagine a straight line and cut that line up at random.  Each break represents the unknown accident, love, heartbreak, job loss, job opportunity, side step or misdirection because that’s how life really is.  I know all these people whose lives meander and I don’t know why I never thought that that wouldn’t apply to me?”  I told my girlfriend that night at dinner.  I have already talked about letting go of life expectations because it can lead to disappointment and you can miss an opportunity if you are looking the wrong way.  I have already also talked about how life is fluid like a river and can change on a moments notice.  In the moments that we don’t imagine, the moments we can’t fully see are the moments we really need, but may not be aware of it.  Are you open to the unexpected and the unknown?

“Dan: […] [T]oday I want to […] talk to you about the subject of plans. Not so much my plan for this column, but life plans, and how we all make them. And how we hope that our kids make good, smart, safe plans of their own. But if we’re really honest with ourselves, our plans usually don’t work out as we had hoped. So instead of asking our young people “What are you plans? What do you plan to do with your life?” maybe we should tell them this: Plan to be surprised.”  – Quote from Dan in Real Life written by Peter Hedges

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