It’s another door slammed and bolted
It’s one more window locked
You were on your way back home and now you’re not
— Terry Scott Taylor, “I Plan, God Laughs”
When I was 24, I had a plan for my life. I knew exactly where I was going. What I was going to do. Who I was going to become. Then I changed. My life changed. I threw that plan away.
By the time I was about 28, I had a completely different plan. It was so clear and simple. But things went in a different direction. I learned more about myself — and then another plan was tossed.
Things were radically different by the time I was 32, then took another unexpected turn when I hit 40.
How many plans have I had? At least half a dozen major plans, maybe more. But I keep changing. And when I change, I find that the things which seemed so important before can seem more like grim jokes. The goal I had wanted seems pointless. The woman I had loved with all my heart is worth nothing to me.
My plans have involved careers, romantic partners and dreams of fame and power. There’ve been visions of money and success and art and love. Especially love. But every time I make a plan, God seems to laugh gently at me, because I can’t see what’s coming.
I keep changing. Unexpected things keep happening. And then my old plans seem laughable and naive. That seems to be happening once more.
My life has been a long and winding road so far, but every stop along the way has taught me something.
It’s puzzling to me to notice people who I knew years ago who seem to be exactly like what they were two or three decades ago. How can someone live that long without apparent change in their lives? I can’t say they’re wrong — because I have no way of knowing what’s in their minds — but it’s baffling to me.
The way I look at the world is radically different than it was in the past. I keep finding ways in which I was mistaken. Ways in which I had been taught things that simply aren’t true. So I keep changing what I believe and what I think is right, sometimes in big ways and sometimes in tiny ways.
But every change I experience modifies the ways in which I interact with the world. Those changes are reflected in what I want, who I want to spend my life with and where I need to be.
The truly baffling thing — at least to me — about most other people is that even when they encounter some new truth, it doesn’t change their lives.
Here’s what I constantly see. A person makes a set of decisions about his or her life based on an immature or limited view of the world. Then the person starts discovering flaws in what he or she had been taught. He or she starts seeing that the goals and partners that were selected long ago no longer match the reality of what he or she wants or believes.
But this person does nothing to change his or her life. This person just rocks along with a plan of life that is completely at odds with what he or she would choose today. Why? Most people have the odd delusion that it would be “throwing too much away.”
If you were in Denver, let’s say, and you thought you wanted to get to New York City, you would set out in a northeasterly direction toward New York. But let’s say you got three fourths of the way there and realized you didn’t really need to go to NYC. Let’s say you realized you needed to go to Seattle instead.
Would you say, “Well, I’m almost to NYC, so I might as well keep heading that way even though I don’t want or need to go there”? Or would you say, “The sooner I turn toward what I want instead, the less time I will have wasted on something that doesn’t make sense for me”?
If you change what you believe is right and what is good for you, but your life doesn’t change, I question whether you have the courage of your convictions. I suspect you’re more interested in what other people think than in what’s right.
Most people are afraid to change course. They would rather keep moving toward what they no longer want — and accept steady lives that make them unhappy — than to admit their plans were wrong.
There’s nothing wrong with changing plans. There’s nothing wrong with changing what you believe is true. In fact, if you haven’t had any major changes in your beliefs or plans, I question whether you’re even living a conscious life.
I’m happier with my life than I’ve ever been, but I’m nowhere close to where I need to be. I’m grateful that I’ve changed. I’m grateful that I’ve learned so much along the way.
And I’m perfectly content to accept that I’ll keep making plans — and God will keep laughing at how little I understand about what’s waiting ahead for me.