I love Netflix – it is one of my favorite things. Last week, in a failed effort to entertain myself while commuting, I discovered “Movie Notes”, a feature on Netflix which allows you to send your friends remarks about the movies they rate. When I first went on the page, it showed “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, which Jayme rated 5 stars. I posted her a movie note, stating “Eternal piece of garbage.” Needless to say, this inspired her ire. Within minutes, I received numerous “Movie Notes” from her, my personal favorite which read. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. This movie was awesome. How could your taste in music be so good and your taste in movies so bad?”
I confess – my taste in movies is often, at best, shameful. The movies I favor can generally be described as insipid, predictable, and generic. Knowing this, you will forgive me for watching (and somewhat enjoying) the movie I am about to reference.
A year or so ago, I stumbled upon “A Lot Like Love”, which stars (I use that term loosely) Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet. From memory, they are college students who meet on a cross-country flight. They immediately sense a “connection” and share an amazing day together. Amanda Peet plays the role of the flighty girl – she has no definite plans and likes to live life as it happens. Ashton Kutcher, on the other hand, has every minute of his life planned out. He is going to graduate college, start a company, make millions, purchase a house, and then, get married. In that order. He is so confident in this plan that he gives her his parents’ phone number and encourages her to call them in seven years, when all of this will be accomplished.
One can guess – life throws him a curveball. As he starts to accomplish these milestones, she comes back into the picture and he refuses to find a place for her. After all, the girlfriend marriage thing is the last factor in his equation. Until the other steps are complete, there’s no sense in even trying.
Slowly, his world starts to crumble. His Internet start up goes bottoms-up, he has to sell his place and ends up moving home with his parents. In other words, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
In my younger years, I was the biggest planner. I attempted to break my entire future into specific parameters, arbitrary deadlines, and little black and white boxes that everything was expected to fit into. I was to be married at 24, have my first kid at 26 and my second at 28. Now that I am knocking on 28’s proverbial door, with no husband and no kids, I realize that this goal should probably be adjusted. In reality, when I look back on my 24th year, it was better spent that way, than if I had been married. I had no idea when I formulated that milestone, what 24 would really be like.
We all have plans; we all have goals. If we didn’t, there would be no reason to get out of bed each day. But what we’re often guilty of, is not being flexible enough. Much like the doomed Ashton Kutcher character in “A Lot Like Love”, we think that life has a definite path – that B must follow A, and must also precede C. That if life doesn’t happen in this fashion, that the outcome will surely be lessened. In other words, if we meet someone when we don’t plan to, that our other life plans will suffer. In reality, this is hardly the case – we’re often slow to realize that a slight shift in expectations and plans can often result in an even better future than we anticipated.
I have spent many periods of my life, telling myself things like, “This isn’t the time for me to be in a relationship, I need to be single.” Or “This is the time that I need to focus on work and not be distracted by other things.” But life doesn’t wait for you – it happens when it wants to. And when all is said and done, it is up to you to have your eyes open to opportunities and possibilities, and not to let them pass you by because it simply wasn’t the day you expected them to come.