“Map out a plan for your life and stay on track!” was the advice that a well-intentioned loved one shouted to me on the day I graduated from FAMU.
And that’s exactly what I set out to do. I was busy calculating task lists and due dates for myself until I realized that in following that advice, I was making myself miserable. After all, how in the world could a twenty-two year old version of me possibly ever know what I might need to change and do, or see, or even be several years or even several months down the line? Looking back, I’ve made some of my worst decisions in efforts to stay on my own pre-planned track. The twenty-two year old Kristen had written a story featuring the woman that I thought I was supposed to become. Turns out that the woman who I was actually meant to be needed a few things done a little differently.
But hold on. Let me digress for a moment.
Recently, while dodging some Atlanta traffic, I got to thinking about how much I enjoy having GPS devices and applications. At the moment, my favorite one happens to be Waze. I’m convinced that Waze has the smartest little computer brain that ever lived, as it’s managed to get me out of traffic crises time after time again. The thing I like about her is that she’ll map your route based on current conditions, and will sometimes change her mind about the direction she wants you to take even while you’re en route. It won’t be until you hear about a crash she diverted you from on the 6 o’clock news that you realize she saved your behind by telling you to take a left that one time when you thought you should have turned right.
Now, isn’t that better than using a map? I might be dating myself but before smartphones showed up, they were precisely what we relied upon when we needed to commute to unfamiliar places! When MapQuest appeared on the scene we thought it was the best thing since sliced bread! We had a set of directions in our hands that was easily accessible by computer and a printer. And it usually worked out fine, unless a CFO landed on Interstate 285 and blocked off the exit you’d planned to take, or until whatever other scenario you might have experienced decided to cause an unanticipated change in your projected course of travel. Unfortunately, that piece of paper didn’t have the foresight to warn you about it and offer you an alternative route to your destination.
The same way that having an updated GPS or navigation app can now save the day (or at least the drive), allowing yourself the flexibility to change your life’s path based on its current conditions will likely result in you being a much happier person. We don’t always know the best way to get to point C until we leave point A and fully scope out point B. Hell, some of us arrive at point B and then willfully decide that we don’t need to go to point C at all.
And with a little practice, I’ve found that learning to let go of the original plan is much easier than you might think.
So here goes:
Step 1. Give your self permission to say “F” the map and the original plan. (I know what F stands for to me, but you can substitute it with the words forget, freak, free or anything else that’s nice and clean).
Step 2. Thank God for the distraction and/or the diversion. They’re usually some kind blessing (for example, a marriage, a divorce, a child, you know, a job, a free trip to Disney World, whatever). Appreciate it, because you’ll never know what other alternative fate it has saved you from. Distractions can sometimes be God’s way of telling you that He knows what you need better than you do.
Step 3. Allow yourself to accept life on life’s terms without clinging too tightly to your little paper map. Nothing in life happens by accident.
Step 4. Gas up the car, refresh the GPS, and take the next available road to the rest of your life. Trust the little voice that tells you that it’s okay to turn down a few unfamiliar streets.
Step 5. Enjoy the drive to your destiny. Excuse me, I mean destination. And if you find that you absolutely cannot, then simply select a new place to go. Some place where the grown up you might like even better.
Safe travels and happy trails. Hope to see you there.