Monday, April 14, 2008

The Long Weekend Road

I'm sitting on a National Express train back to London after a great weekend hiking in North Yorkshire. I needed a little time off, to myself, by myself. Booked three nights in a roadside inn (constructed 1680), grabbed some ordinance survey maps, planned some hikes and enjoyed getting away from London.

The trip originally had three purposes: to relax (done), to write (also done), and to try to figure out a general direction for myself. I'm pushing 30 and feel like I've been drifting, planless, long enough.

But what I realized before I left was that life isn't necessarily about plans. I discovered that I've never really gotten over my aborted plan to go to New York and Make It Big in Publishing, which was the sum total of my plans after college. In retrospect, as the magazine and publishing industry continues to contract and I'm enjoying a fairly lucrative career in digital PR, I'm not disappointed that I didn't Make It Big. But I've felt as though I've spent most of the last eight years adrift with very little in the way of a 'plan.'

My realization was this: life isn't necessarily about plans. It's about opportunities, about recognizing them and taking advantage of ones that are good for you. It's about seeing something that could potentially be good, whether it's for a career or a relationship or a hobby, and just doing it if it's right. Like moving into digital PR, or moving to London. Or taking a long weekend to Yorkshire and cranking out 10,000 words and a bunch of story and novel notes.

For the first time in my life I feel alright with not having a Plan. I regret some decisions I've made, but they have taught me much, and I stand by each one either as being good for me overall or at least teaching me some kind of lesson. And I can get caught in a snowstorm and still be prepared for it and recognize my limits - when it's time to turn back and try the mountain again the next day.

The funny thing about this is that the insight came before the trip on which I wanted to have it. I'm not complaining. I did get a lot of writing, and hiking, and thinking done. And had some really good Yorkshire ale. The black pudding, not as good. But still an experience.

I feel wholly confident that I can make time to do what I love and to separate my personal life from my work life - something I haven't been great at recently. And my Plan? To enjoy it as it comes. To go with the flow. It's funny: in college, if I'd said that, I would reply "that's Taoism, you took an entire course in that philosophy, remember!" And it only took eight years for the lesson to sink in.

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