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2009 Resolution the Fourth: Without Plans

Posted on by Paul Roth

I like to think I know what’s coming. I try to prepare for the future by planning out my own path and predicting the obstacles I will encounter and then ways to get around those. I don’t think this is a bad characteristic, necessarily. After all, Carrie taught me that a man with a plan has a better chance of being a man with a happy girlfriend. The problem that I have with planning is getting stuck there.

There’s a mental momentum to traveling from A to Z by visiting all the letters in between. Missing a stop is at least disconcerting and at worst makes you a horrible speller. I am not proud of the fact that when my contrivances have gone awry, I have reacted poorly in the past. It’s not as serious a problem for me these days; I’ve become more flexible and accepting of accidents of circumstance. Still, even if I no longer wail and gnash my teeth when my schemes fall by the wayside, I continue to begin each day and each task with a recipe of ordered steps.

Just as staying along the edges of life restricts me from encountering more of what there is to discover, so too does staying on a prescribed path. In the musical, “Into The Woods,” when Little Red Riding Hood is attempting to evade the Wolf and stick to the path, he replies:

Just so, little girl – any path

So many worth exploring

Just one would be so boring

And look what you’re ignoring…

Sure, he’s just trying to catch her to satisfy his own vile desires, but he makes a valid point that has stayed in my mind for well over a decade now. By staying on the path, I don’t know what I’m missing. That’s not to say I shouldn’t try to get to my goals, and certainly the straight line appeals to my efficient scientist’s mind, but crooked lines possess a beauty of their own. When I have strayed from the straight and narrow, I have found things like amazing architecture, intoxicating restaurants yielding exotic foods, magical sights of nature, and at least one remarkable girlfriend.

In 2008, I got a really good GPS device (my previous Magellan was garbage) from Navigon. Since this acquisition, I have found myself happily driving off in random directions just to see what’s out there, confident that I can eventually find my way back to my goal. But in doing this, I’ve also come to realize that I could have always made those drives. I have no problems stopping and asking for directions, and roads always go somewhere. It was fear more than disorientation that kept me on the well-known lanes.

Today, I have a credit card, a reliable cellphone, and that nifty Navigon. The only thing that keeps me from wandering the world is me. I think I am capable enough that I can get back safely wherever I go and whatever I do on the spur of the moment. There are facebook events to which I get invited, there are Meetups that seem interesting in passing, there are flyers for events all over the place. I turn away from things too often because I’m not prepared for them. But what would it hurt me to try things without preparation? I might stumble and look a bit foolish, but there’s no lasting damage that comes from foolishness. Unless you consider knowledge to be lasting damage, and that’s debatable. I want to shake off my anticipations on occasion and just do stuff because I really don’t know what will happen and I find myself yearning to find out.

Thus, I resolve this year to jump into things without plans. No, that’s not a plan, just a resolution. A goal, maybe. So, I’ll say yes to more invitations. I’ll hear about something in passing and try it. I’ll point to places on google maps and just go there. I’ll call up friends and ask if I can join them in whatever they’re doing, just because I have some time to do it.

Speaking of which, what are you up to?

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