Monday, December 28, 2009

Rant and Sleep-Deprived Musings

I’m a practical person. It’s that old cliché—a blessing and a curse.

I’m safe. I act safely. I carefully survey each course of action, each possible outcome, before embarking. Spontaneity is not in my vocabulary (obviously, since I just had to use spell check in order to get it down right). In my perfectly ordered and planned world, there’s no room for detours, for concessions to whims, for transient enjoyment, for trips or late-night runs or improvisation.

A professor took me to lunch—she insisted on driving me across town and spending an embarrassing amount of money on fine food for my rather nondiscriminatory college palate. Then she spent the next hour lecturing me on how I need to sign up for study abroad before it’s too late. I need to get out, apparently, see the world, experience other cultures, do something different. She’s right, but how? I have responsibilities, I explained, I’ve already overburdened my parents and I can’t ask them to take on any more, plus, how will I stay on track with core classes for my major? I can’t just step out of the country for a semester and expect that everything’s going to be hunky-dory. She dismissed my concerns as though they were mere trifles, easily solved, not worth worrying about. Surely I had a friend, she said to emphasize a point, surely I had a city-bred friend who was itching for the opportunity to spend time in the country, care for horses, enjoy the simple life for awhile. Really? Because I don’t think I know anyone willing to muck shit for six months time for no pay or reward. I think I made the professor sorry she asked me to go out to eat in the first place.

But people are wired differently (obviously!), and I’m a one track mind, homebody type, I guess. I could have gone to any college across the nation, like my pals at Cornell and UChicago, but I chose instead to stay right here in the place where I’d grown up to pursue with relentless, steadfast determination a goal I’d set for myself long before. Is this a character flaw on my part? Sometimes I think so. I look at friends of mine who embrace the moment, who are out their living their lives with gusto and nary a care. They flit from place to place, opportunity to opportunity, shape-shifting to suit the occasion and laughing all the while. I feel a twinge of jealousy and regret before I shake myself and return to present matters.

But there’s the other side of the coin. Like it or not, life is a series of hoops that need to be jumped through if one is to make it in Society. Planning for the future, making careful preparations, not allowing subtle but dangerous distractions to turn the course….these things are all important.

I know many people—kids of 18, 19, and 20 years—friends and classmates and peers of mine—who are married, having children of their own. Frankly, it scares me a little bit. Are they making a terrible mistake by committing to something so permanent at such a young age, or, a more frightening prospect, am I hopelessly behind? Should I, too, be “settling down?” Egads, no. I’m not ready; I don’t want it. I’ve got other plans.

I also known many people—adults of 18, 19, and 20 years—friends and classmates and peers of mine—who have no idea what it is they want to do with their lives. If you asked them, jokingly, as you would a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” they’d either stare at you blankly, comprehension failing, or instead rattle off a list of possibilities, none of which they have any real plans or means to pursue. Now is not the time for saying, “I want to be a princess or an astronaut or a trombonist or a surgeon.” That time has passed. You don’t have to know your life’s course, for crying out loud, but you need to have a definite plan. You need to be heading somewhere, even if you decide to change your destination along the way. You’ve got to grow up and snap out of it and work at something.

A happy medium between all extremes is what’s needed. Live now, but plan ahead. Be smart and careful. And so, a New Year’s resolution for me and a reminder for us all: Live a little more for today, learn to spell ‘spontaneity’ and then act on its principles. Don’t sacrifice the present for the tantalizing but all-too-distant future.

/end rant and sleep-deprived musings


secret agent woman said...

There is no one right way, but I would sa y that there is plenty of time ahead for settling down. In my expereince working with people who are dying, it is not that things they've done that haunt them but the things undone. I've made my share of impulsive, foolsish decisions, and had my share of heartache because of them. But I definitely don't regret them - I am thankful for the richness of the experiences I've had in my life so far.

Sid said...

Dude I'm 27 and I still have no idea what I want to do with my life. Right now all I know is that I want to have an adventure in whatever form it may come. Maybe it's travelling abroad, falling in love, purchasing your own house etc ... Whatever it is, it has to be slightly scary, a change, something to get the adrenalin rushing.