Seven years ago, we met Richard. A mutual acquaintance casually announced, “Oh, my young German friend is travelling around the UK, and I said you’d put him up for a couple of nights.”
Accordingly, I picked up this confident, assured eighteen-year-old, who spoke excellent English, at the station and brought him home. He’s been like a son to me ever since.
Last week he came to stay for a few days. He’s just finished his finals and is again travelling. This time it’s very different. Seven years ago, he had a plan; albeit a plan arranged by this mutual friend. This time he had no plan. He started his journey in different parts of Germany, travelled to France, then to Scandinavia and then on to Istanbul, finally arriving in the UK. He stayed in hostels and moved on whenever he felt like it. He did give me a couple of days’ notice he was coming to stay, but I had plans and could not meet him at the airport; he caught a train and then a bus and made his own way here.
When he left us, he travelled to Oxford. When it came time to find a bed for the night, the hostel was full. He simply shrugged, caught a train to London, found a bed there, and, in the morning, continued on in his light-hearted way.
A concept I’ve come across in a self-help book – I read a lot of these books and find them, yes, helpful – is that the more comfortable you are with uncertainty, the happier you can be.
If you think about it, this makes sense. We know what has gone before, but we cannot know about tomorrow. We can plan, but, as one General famously said, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Life is not the enemy – at least, I hope not – but our plans must always be flexible. Plans are subject to change. If we think about our last two years, it has been change, change and change again.
While he was here, Richard and I discussed the way the last seven years have changed us. His life experiences have enabled him to be much more flexible and confident with uncertainty. As my children have grown and become more independent, I have been able to be more spontaneous and am much happier without the restrictions a young family inevitably prescribes. Ironically, I plan more, but then change those plans with more joy and far less resentment.
I would be interested to know how much you plan your days, years and life, and how you react to the inevitable changes to those plans? Do you need a plan to give you stability and direction, or are you happy to just go with the flow and react to what comes next?
Another phrase I love is: Yesterday is history; tomorrow is mystery; today is a gift – which is why it is called the present.
A Moodscope member.