“I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world – present and in awe.”
It was late, but daylight savings made it look earlier – the sun had not even set yet, the sky only had a tinge of pink. I perched my sneakers on the bottom rung of the bar stool I sat on watching people stroll along the south bank of the Yarra River, and twirled the ice around my gin and tonic. He was people watching too, next to me. We were telling each other our made-up stories of passers by. “Where will we go next?” He wondered out loud, but it wasn’t a question. We’d been exploring the city, and we’re not planners. The best experiences we’d had in Melbourne came from unplanned wanders. Stumbles we called them. That was another good stumble, we’d say, after finding the best coffee, or a graffiti-filled laneway being freshly painted by an amazing artist. It’s how we’ve always travelled. Vague, unplanned plans always turn out to be the best adventures – even if it involves being rained on, or getting lost, or waiting much longer for a train than you needed to… the end result is adventure, and the best stories when we get home.
Some holidayers are planners. Some people are planners. They like to know what’s coming, what time it’s coming, and what it’ll look like when it comes. When you travel with them, they’re the ones who need to know what time you’re meeting for breakfast, and they plan a daily schedule for you before your flight has even landed. On holidays I err on the side of adventure and spontaneity, in life I like to be planned and predictable.
But that gets tricky. Life doesn’t work like holidays. We can’t plan them, itemise our to-do list, or lock in itineraries.
Because we don’t know what might happen next. We’re not in charge of the game plan, and while we can plan as best as we can, we can’t control.
And that’s something I spent 2017 learning: to relinquish control.
I would try to line up my ducks, and they’d quack loudly in disagreement, obstinately waddling around, uncontrollable.
I can’t control the choices of others.
I can’t control the way other people perceive me.
I can’t control what happens to me, or the things that happen around me.
And that is not always comfortable.
What I can control though, is my response to all of it.
I can feel the feelings, and then I can choose what I do with them.
I can choose to dwell on the things I can’t control, watch those naughty ducks zigzag around and let my mind spiral into anxiety or I can pull up my big girl panties and go with it – sit back, shrug my shoulders and know that it’s making me better, kinder, stronger.
I can be okay not knowing what’s going to happen next.
I can look at it like the adventure of walking through a foreign city – I can make rough plans but be flexible when the game changes or when the coffee is awful.
I can hope for the best, but be prepared enough to stand strong when the best falls through.
Maybe unpredictable is terrifying, but maybe we could remember that unpredictable is making the story of your life much more interesting, and possibly ensuring that the the protagonist of that story (that’s you!) a much more well-rounded character. Well I hope so at least.
Here’s to not knowing, to adventure, and to 2018 being the most interesting story of our lives so far. Here’s to the anticipation of what’s next.