January 28, 2013
Remember to Chase Butterflies
I was thinking the other day how much of my present is a function of the future. How does that make sense, you may ask. Well, I make plans for the years ahead, and then live my days to meet those goals.
One friend of mine said it would be truly sad if all of our plans materialized as expected. That got me thinking. I have always made plans but the truth is, in the past I have also let the journey take me places. Sometimes at the expense of meeting that initial end goal. And that was tough sometimes. I never made plans for more than 5-6 years at a time but even so, being thrown off track by getting lost in the landscape of the journey didn’t feel all that great in the beginning, because, you see, I tended to put all my eggs on one basket. And then didn’t know what else to do with myself.
Not anymore. And I’m also much more flexible in terms of plans. Part of it comes from having many baskets! A job, my family, and various writing projects. BUT now I have a new problem. I have too many baskets and only so much energy. Which means that if I am to give each long-term goal a minimum amount of attention, I have little time left in the day and week to do things that would take me other places. Like joining a photo association and going on trips in the country or in the city. Roaming the city and countryside (if not going abroad) to take photos, which may end up good enough to to sell to sites like Shutterstock, and launching me in this different direction. Joining an NGO. Things like that. In fact, I don’t even want to know about things taking me places because I already have more baskets than I can handle.
So how are we to live our lives then? One basket, two, three? What about having one too many? When should we stop designing new baskets?
I remember in university getting involved in so many activities. But that was all “going places.” The end goal was to graduate with some decent grades. Not top grades, because I wanted to do so much besides academics.
It felt so good to have only that one goal. Sure, I also worked while in university, so there was a lot on my plate, but as far as having a long-term project to see through a certain way, I had only one. Which gave me the freedom to enjoy every activity while it lasted, and for what it had to offer in the moment, in the joy of doing something I loved with my mind and body, surrounded by other human beings or alone, more than for a goal or another (acquiring skills, padding a resume, etc.). Taking photographs for the school’s yearbook was one of those activities. So was dancing in a troupe that only lived for a semester.
As we grow older, we begin to make too much of life about goals: about eggs and baskets. And then try to balance all these baskets on our head, one on top of the other. And in order not to drop them all, take them all down from time to time, forget about some of the eggs, and place the remaining ones in baskets of various sizes, which we place at different angles to one another back on top of our head. Some put their family first, others their job, or their social life, or travel. Others do away with all the baskets (which is not forgetting about things like family — only forgetting about goals related to your family) and live completely in the moment, letting life take them where it will. A quote that comes to mind is “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” Which mainstream society says it’s a bad thing. We’re taught from early on in life to make plans and stick to them, and try to be the captain of our ship. But life throws us many curve balls. So we’d better learn to go with the flow, at least now and then. More importantly, to do it in all areas of our lives.
We want to be happier but we embrace ever less freedom, and forget to spend enough time nourishing our soul. ‘Cause that’s what falls by the wayside eventually, and then day after day, if all we’re after is eggs and baskets. If we forget to make time to chase butterflies.