I’m a planner to a fault. I plan everything.
Example One: When I was a kid and a friend was coming over to play, I would make a schedule of events. First, we’ll play with my Barbies. Then, we’ll play house. After that, we’ll take a break and go outside to play with my dog. Then there’s lunch. After lunch, we can play school, I’ll be the teacher.
Example Two: In college, we would have fun group road trips to Six Flags. As the planner, I assigned the drivers, who would ride in each car, a navigator for each car and had a set of itineraries/maps printed out for each navigator. I planned the trip all the way down to what restaurant we would eat at on our way back.
Example Three: Also in college I began obsessed with an excel document I created called, “The Four-Year Plan.” People would give me their major, their desired hours each semester, the electives they would like to take and their ideal schedule and I would put together a four-year college plan for them. Basically, what courses to enroll in each semester, what fun electives they could take and somehow I was able to get them one, two and sometimes three days where they only had one class (or sometimes no classes at all).
Now that I have revealed to you that I am, in fact, a crazy person, I think I’ve done a pretty good job convincing you that I am a planner. That’s why the place I am in right now, sitting on my porch on a beautiful Friday morning, is very uncharacteristic of me. Because right now, for the first time in my life, I don’t have a plan…(and I’m actually okay with that).
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how five seconds can change your life. You can get food poisoning, get an important phone call, break a bone, get engaged, all in the matter of seconds. Life is seemingly normal one second and then all of a sudden, everything changes. I know something like food poisoning may not seem very life altering, but it could keep you from ever touching sushi again which may lead you to going to Whole Foods. And then, while you’re there you run into an old friend who introduces you to his roommate who turns out to be your future husband. Ha. I just laughed out loud because even now, I’m planning fake futures for my imaginary readers. Sorry.
So often we forget that we only have one life and one life to get it right. It’s so easy to become consumed with work or exercising or “The Bachelor” when we live with our life blinders on. (Life blinders are what I picture we wear around our eyes to keep us focused on one thing, like those black things they put on horses). I’m the same way. In my life plan I had it all scheduled out: graduate from college, get a job I love, be successful in the job I love, find a man I love, get married, have kids, grow old, be happy. But here’s the reality: I can make lists and plans and follow all the steps I need to get from A to B, but I don’t really have any control in my outcomes. Like I said, five seconds can change your life.
A couple weeks ago I was driving my roommate to the airport and witnessed a car accident in my rear-view mirror. I was marveling at how smashed-in the car behind us looked and the speed they were going didn’t seem right. Then I realized it was because it had hit a semi-truck and was now spiraling out of control. In a matter of semi-seconds, the car smashed into the side meridian at full speed and pieces of the car flew in all directions.
If that doesn’t sober you up to life blinders, it should. The driver could have been just like me, a girl with a plan. Drop my roommate off at the airport, then go for a run, attend a lunch meeting at Bricktops, have afternoon coffee with a friend, dinner and a movie with my youth girls. But being consumed with your life isn’t going to matter if you don’t have a life to live.
A dear high school friend of mine got engaged last year after almost eight years of dating the same guy. They wanted to wait to get married until she finished all her schooling and she had just contacted me last month to get my address so she could send me a wedding invitation. The day before I received their Save the Date cards, I learned that he had died in a car accident. Even as I type this, it doesn’t seem real.
Life isn’t just too short, it’s full of opportunities. There is a world outside of your work bubble, your school bubble, your city bubble, your country bubble. It’s broad and it’s wide and we only have one life to discover it. It’s easy to make a plan, to say when I get done with this, I’ll finally have time for that. But, why wait?
Take every moment to live freely and love well. Tell the people you love that you love them every chance you get. Be spontaneous (yes, stop planning!). Serve others. Perform random acts of kindness. Give and share – yourself, your time, your resources. Go for a walk, yes, without your iPod, and be content with just listening and being still. And last but not least, laugh. Laugh often. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with your friends. Do these things daily, and over and over again, and make sure to pass on only good.
Five seconds can change your life. Make it count.