The idea of nothing to do and nowhere to be should be revered, not feared.
At first, the preparation genius in me twitched uncomfortably at the lack of planning that was put into the spring break trip to Moab, Utah that I joined up with rather last minute. From figuring out which route to take once we were already bolting down Hamilton, Starbucks in hand, to getting directions for a free campsite texted to us hours before our arrival to stopping at an abandoned playground on our way south to the general lazy consensuses that were agreed upon in the early morning sun that determined what, exactly, we would be doing that day.
In truth, I didn’t mind so much that the group hadn’t made any plans, but more I wondered how I was expected to soothe the little voices in my head that like to be told what to do and where to go so that they can know how exactly they should prepare for the experiences in front of them. One side of me rationed that it wasn’t worth it to worry about things that will surely happen, one way or the other, while the other side rashly bleated that it needed to know everything now – and it means now – so that it can prep and devise and write scripts for itself in anticipation of the known plan.
As I went through the week, however, I noticed that the rash and bleating side of me subsided and allowed room for a certain kind of graceful silence and peace to take the reins. There was a definite loveliness to our spontaneous plans made in the morning over a pancake breakfast and between sips of coffee. There was something liberating about not having plans, classes to skip off to, papers to write, agendas filled to the brim with scribbled due dates and page numbers.
This all seems rather obvious and I admit, I feel almost foolish typing it out on paper for the prying eyes of Bulletin readers to laugh and point – but I have grown to rely on the stringent schedules and the busy(-ish) lifestyle to keep my mind subdued and unthinking about the realities that life could usher in for me. While I spent my time adhering to deadlines and agendas, thinking that I was busying myself to prepare for (and subsequently not think about) my impending future, I didn’t even realise that I was also shutting out the unacknowledged beauty of an empty agenda. My university state of mind congratulated me when I was busy and stressed and admonished me when I had nothing at all to do for a day – leaving me no choice but to appease the part of me that pats my back when I’m stuffed in the library on a sunny day, catching up with what my agenda says I should have done already.
I find it funny, because this seems to be a lesson that I must learn and relearn. Perhaps planning is in my bones or simply handed down to me from a line of prodigious preparers, it does not seem to matter much. I like planning even though I’ve learnt, over and over again, that freedom and discovery and learning most often comes from plans thought up two seconds ago rather than two months ago.
Even more interesting is that I am always happy to slide into the idea of unplanned occurrences only after a legion of arguments and pouty attitudes rage through my head for a couple of cross-armed-days. I can never just look at an empty schedule or hear that the plan is to play it by ear (so the plan is that there is no plan?) without making inner snarky comments (as observed above) or having a minor eye-widening paralysis where I can help but think, “What now?”
I suppose it is my lot in life to keep relearning this important lesson: that having nowhere to go and nothing to do and nobody to see is something to be revered, cherished and anticipated rather than feared, shied away from or hidden by an invented busy lifestyle and filled up agenda pages. Instead of looking ahead with fear and trepidation at an unsolved next step, I must learn to see an empty page not as an enemy to be filled with meaningless clutter, but as a gift to be written on in due time, with various unplanned presents, lessons and adventures waiting for me and my white blank page.