Last weekend my friend Jess and I escaped London and decided to head to my parents house for some fresh air and the sea breeze. As we strolled along Holkham Beach – my favourite part of the Norfolk coast and synonymous with my childhood – Jess started asking me about my future plans.
I don’t know what it is, but since my friends and I have turned 30, more and more of our conversations have turned to future life plans and questions surrounding them. Plans to buy flats – “what’s the budget?”. Plans to learn Italian – “wouldn’t Spanish be more useful?”. Plans to quit one career and start another – “what about job security?”. Plans to get married – “ do you really want to marry him?”. Plans to move abroad – “what good is learning Italian if you want to live in Argentina?”. You get the drift.
When it comes to small things, I don’t like to plan too much. I am organised in the sense that I will make arrangements sometimes a week or so in advance to meet friends for dinner as we all have hectic lives, but I don’t need to know where we are going or what we are doing until just before it happens, which yes, often this attitude does drive others crazy! I guess I’m more a “go with the flow” type gal with the little things in life.
I like blank pages in my diary and the odd free weekend. When I receive an email on a sunny day at 5 pm asking “Free for a drink?”. I like to be able to say yes because my diary doesn’t dictate that I booked something months in advance. I love Saturday’s pottering about doing my own thing and a on a Sunday getting a paper, going for a last minute brunch or unplanned cinema trip with friends. This plan-free life gives me the room I need to breathe which is much needed with the breathless pace of simply living in London.
When it comes to the big stuff in life, I’ve not always been so relaxed though….
Although I understand life is fluid and we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, I thought I had a vague idea of where I was heading and the things I wanted from life. With others chatter about their future agendas, at times, it’s made me feel a bit confused and thrown off course. Their questions would swirl around my head like a buzzing mosquito, making me wonder if there was an itch I needed to scratch. Do I want to change job? What international destination should I move to? Did I dump him too soon? Do I need to learn a language? Should I be saving more with the aim to buy a bigger flat? It’s hard at times not to get swept up with everyone else’s plans.
My family and I have been going to this beach for as long as I can remember. It was on the sand at Holkham that I first learnt to walk and I can’t begin to count how many times I have wandered along that shoreline since. As Jess nattered away about her goals for the future, I thought back to all those wanders and how I’d left Norfolk 12 years ago without any plans and been totally ok. I’ve had so many adventures since I left home; I’ve traveled, fallen in and out of love, started and quit jobs, built friendships and created a life for myself. I’ve been just fine.
I suddenly became aware, in the sunshine of Holkham beach, that I’m happy with things right now, just the way they are. If I don’t need to know what I’m doing next Sunday afternoon, or the Sunday after that, then why do I need to know where I may be in a year or three years or five years?
Nothing beats the thrill of the unknown. I want surprises and for opportunities to arise which I can grab with both hands. I don’t want anything ruled out. I want every door to remain open and that’s the problem with plans you see – big or small – they close so many doors.
I don’t ever want to lose that feeling of being young and on that beach, looking out to sea and imagining all that could and might be. The excitement of the unknown still tingles through my veins like it did when I was a child. Why would I give that up, when I don’t need to? Why would I rule anything out? Why would I make plans for a future that realistically none of us have any control over?
Whilst at the beginning of the walk my head had been full of thoughts about the plans I didn’t have but felt I should be making, I left the beach having taken a longer, harder look at what I do have and at where my life is right now.
I may not have a Plan A, Plan B or even a Plan C, but you know what? That’s alright by me, I’m happy.