Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Best Plans Aren't Really Planned

At work lately, the bosses are emphasizing “planning.”  Teams are planning, projects are planning, people are planning.  There’s a new fancy form to fill out to make a plan, several spreadsheets to keep track of all those plans, and backup plans just in case the original plans get changed/scrapped/eaten by a mouse.  I work with some of the most phenomenal planners on the planet.  Deputy Pepper can draft a plan and color-code a spreadsheet like nobody’s business.  Richmond’s project plan includes benchmarks, goals, and milkshake rewards (ahem…).  We've got some pretty great planners.  And then there’s me.  My plans generally consist of a legal pad, brightly colored Post-Its, and a 3 Musketeers bar.    
I definitely understand the importance of “planning,” especially in cases of weddings, surprise parties, humanitarian aid missions, or sending a guy into space.  I even get the importance of “planning” at work, where they’re (dutifully) concerned about Continuity of Operations Plans and knowing what to do on a project if, God forbid, one of us comes down with the plague or eats bad quiche and kicks the bucket.  But 9 times out of 10, the plans change and then you gotta do more “planning” and that keeps you from doing what you really want to be doing, like working or going out to lunch.  Okay, you know me too well, I never let “planning” keep me from lunch.
I don’t actually “plan.”  I give myself assignments, I set goals, I dream, and I have visions (not hallucinogenic visions, of course!)  And, um, okay, there might be an Oprah-inspired Vision Board somewhere in my house.  I generally know where I want to end up but I don’t always know the steps that I’m going to take to get there.  Sometimes, I end up taking a few wrong turns but, like my GPS-friend Mandy, I’m really good at recalculating (and I’m usually a lot more pleasant about it than she is!)  Maybe it takes me longer without a plan, but I eventually get to where I’m going or where I want to be. 

Me and bridges.  Go figure.
Some of the best moments of my life happened precisely because I didn’t have a plan…or because the original plan didn’t go as planned.  Last fall I went to London…and sure, that took some planning. I even planned to go to Paris but, thank God, that didn’t go as planned!  Before the trip, Deputy Pepper (a veteran of London sightseeing) and I sat in my cubicle poring over his London guidebook and I planned out all the places that I wanted to see.  And I managed to see most of them.  The last day that I was there, I made an unplanned second trip to the Tower of London (gift shop).  I had to make a return trip because I had broken the collectible mugs (definitely unplanned!) that I had purchased the first time I was there.  After that was accomplished, I crossed Tower Bridge and then I walked along the Thames where I hadn’t planned on accosting a random guy to take my picture, but I did and it’s now one of my favorite pictures of me in front of a bridge that there is. 
While walking through London on that crisp October Sunday, I started hearing church bells ringing and I decided to find where all that racket was coming from.  Easy enough, right?  Not when you’re hearing impaired and unable to distinguish what directions sounds come from!  (On any given day, I can’t tell if Deputy Pepper is talking to me from behind, in front, or above!)  I never found out exactly where those bells were ringing but I found a sign that pointed towards St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of those places that I planned to see but forgot to get to in all the planned-ness of my trip.  I eventually ended up there and it was beautiful and I’m glad that I broke those mugs because if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have had that amazing unplanned Sunday morning in London.      
When I was sixteen, my mom, my aunt, and I visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (the Kennedys are one of the great passions of my life).   And after spending a day ohhhing and ahhhing at everything Kennedy, we stopped at the gift shop (can you tell, they’re another one of the great passions of my life) and we chatted with the Gift Store Ladies and I told them that I wanted to work there one day.  It became one of those dreams that you have but aren’t really sure how, or if, it’s ever going to become real.  I didn’t have a plan but as one step led to another in this dance that is my life, I somehow did what I had to do to make that dream come true.  10 years after visiting the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, I became an intern in their Archives Unit.  It wasn’t the gift store…but it was close enough.

Me at 16. Girl with a dream.
(I don't know what's scarier,
that vest or the fact that I still
have that bag from the gift shop!)

It's far away but it's me at 26.
Today, I’m going to do what I almost always do.  No plans.  Just see where I end up.

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