Sunday, November 30, 2014

Wanderlust Plans

I can’t sleep. This is about the millionth night in a row where I am flat on my back, wide-awake. As I shed layers, add layers, kick, toss and turn, put my hair up, take my hair down, wander in and out of my kitchen, socks or no socks, window open or closed, I have decided that there are two reasons for this sleeplessness. The first reason–my rem cycle is attached to a different planet. My sleep strings are being pulled in a different direction, a different time zone that didn’t exist in Turkey, wasn’t found in Greece, was lost in Oregon, was absent in Colorado, and has been missing since returning back to Brooklyn. The second reason that I can’t sleep–I think 25 is for the birds and my mind is restless.

25 is a sticky mess of trying to “live in the moment” and “make plans” all at the same time. I juggle with this notion that we all need to be “planners” and “go-getters.” In a city like New York, you would miss everything if you started to plan. Planning will get you about as far as a cup of coffee, and even then, it is better to approach the register and make a last minute decision, then to plan before hand. Tall? Grande? Caffeine? Decaf? Hot? Cold? If I had planned to be where I am now, I never, ever would be sitting in my apartment in Brooklyn, with the job that I have in my cozy apartment. New York is not a place for planners. This is one of the reasons that I have come to like New York so well–it never requires a plan or asks for one. If you plan for the train, you will miss it. If you plan for a fresh bagel, they will all be sold out. If you plan for a brunch at your favorite brunch spot, the wait will be a day and a year. If you plan to stay in your apartment, your landlord will raise the rent by $200.00, forcing you to move out. If you plan to stay at your job, they will hire you as a temp, and give you 6 months notice to vacate. If you plan to meet the man of your dreams on the streets of New York, you will be wandering around this city until you have blisters the size of golf balls around your heels. New York expects you to keep your chin up, to jump on the first opportunity or sublet that pops up, and to go with your gut. New York expects you to eavesdrop, landing you a job through gossip and mingling. New York pushes you to your limits, moving you forward, and insists that you keep up. In New York, gut instinct is the key to survival, and planning would only slow you down and set you back.

At 25, the roads diverge between the “planners” and the “gut-followers.” Planners begin to settle, they usually have a front lawn, and they are meticulous in what will happen today, tomorrow, and next year. They plan around numbers– age, bank accounts, zip codes, area codes, 401-K’s. They strive to make long lists, checking off every box, and focus much more what “needs to happen.” The “gut-followers” prefer to be surprised and live moment to moment. They travel light, refuse to land in one place, and are constantly on the move. “Gut-followers” rarely follow the rules, drawing outside the lines and strive on being “different.” They don’t worry about the long term and figure that everything will work out one way or another.

This isn’t to say that you can’t be a little bit of both…but at 25, we begin think harder about the life that we want to live and how we will live it out. Only a few generations ago, everyone was a planner. Once you got a job, that was the job that you had for the rest of your life. Once you got married, you bought a house and settled down. Today, there are endless options. Jobs come and go, we are transient, exploring (for some of us, well beyond our comfort zone) all the possibilities, and if you are like me, having too many plans would get in the way of all that life has to offer. However, I want to be clear–“gut-followers” can get a bad rap. We are not as careless as we may seem. We are not flakey. We are not as haphazard as it might appear. We want everything that “planners” want. Chances are, we have a plan, it just isn’t set in stone. We are flexible. The “gut-followers” just don’t want everything mapped out, they don’t want to be told what to do, they don’t need all the answers right away, and they see themselves getting to the same place as the planner, using a different route, a different timeline and prefer to be surprised.

Curled up in a cozy armchair on the upper westside, I held my brand new niece. At a week old, the world is her oyster, and she doesn’t need to have a plan. She is free to live the life that she chooses. She can plan as little or as much as she wants. And while I hope to be there for every milestone she encounters, every setback, every leap forward, every achievement, I want her to know that as a native New Yorker, she should follow her gut and:

 “Dream, dream, dream the craziest dreams.” – Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu

…Because 25 years ago no one would have ever planned or imagined that I would be sitting on the upper westside with my brother and sister-in-law and baby Matilda sipping a latte in New York City. And because all of us followed our gut—here she is and here we are.

This cup is for Matilda. Welcome to this crazy, amazing world!

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