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Unaccording to Plan

by Ashley
Published: Last Updated on 3 comments 290 views 10 minutes read

As a second grade feminist, I was convinced I’d be the first female baseball player in the MLB. I’m not entirely sure why I thought this: I had been the worst t-ball player on the (all male) team and did not have particularly good aim. Needless to say that after proving to be the worst player on the girls softball team for two years running and realizing baseball bored me, this particular ambition of mine faded into the distance.


My incredible artistic abilities began to shine at an early age.

Next on my “when I grow up” list was veterinarian — but I don’t do blood and couldn’t stomach the idea of watching pets die every day; shortly after that was Disney animator or fashion designer, but I can’t draw (as both my high school art teacher and college drawing professor would often remind me), plus my fashion sense is guided by comfort over style.

Once I settled on a career path that seemed more me, something in the creative storytelling fields (design, film, writing), the plans for my future became more detailed, less focused on work and more so on all of the other cool stuff that comes with being an adult: college plans, romantic prospects, dream cars; wedding plans, completed manuscripts, goal weight. Things that a younger you can be so sure of, things that never come to pass.

This has been on my mind a lot lately, as I’ve worked with a health coach and counselor, examining the roots of my anxiety and exploring my motivations, ambitions, and priorities. I’ve been spending more time questioning what I want, why I want it, and what my true goals are. And trust me, as a planner, I have long lists of them. Things to do, places to go, books to write, projects to finish, pounds to lose. It wouldn’t be that hard to plan out the next five, ten, twenty years…. on paper.

siblings in the cold 4

My brother and I in Whistler, late 2004, when we both thought we’d end up in Vancouver one day.

Recently I came across an old journal entry of mine, written one month before I moved to Paris for 10 months, and it made me laugh:

July 11, 2005

after school (which i would really like to finish in five years so thats the model i’m going with), before i move to vancouver (which is REALLY happening i dont care what i have to do), i am going to use that summer to travel. i cant take a whole year like so many of these crazy people are doing because i’m more career oriented than they are, and thats fine. but i do want to go off and travel a bit before moving and trying to settle into a good job, etc.

so, as soon as i graduate, i’m packing and flying to australia, where currently i know three people. actually i know some adults too. i will stay there for a few weeks, maybe a month, traveling around, seeing what i can, visiting who i can, etc. from australia, maybe during that month, i would like to go to some pacific islands (other than new zealand which i also want to see), and see some of the tropical, polynesian-esque paradise everyone speaks of. i do want to go to thailand, so maybe i’ll do that that summer too, or i’ll wait till a winter in vancouver and take off some weeks and do that.

so after my month or so of exploratory travel, i’m going to pack up my car, find someone who wants to drive cross country to whistler who would drive my moving truck of stuff promising them a place to stay in whistelr – hell i could ask warren and camille to do it since they’ve always wanted to drive cross country – then me and my bro are are going to get in my car and drive cross country seeing cool stuff along the way. take a week or so to do that. by that time he will have graduated high school and if his plan goes as planned, he too would be moving to BC. but even if he doesnt, it would still be nice to have someone in the car and by then i think we’ll be getting along even better.

so thats my TENTATIVE plans for the future. i dont know what will happen between now and then, but thats the goal i’m working towards.

What a lofty dreamer I was. As we all should be! So much has changed in the last 12 years, so much has happened UNaccording to plan. I don’t have one ounce of regret for not doing any of the things I thought I wanted to do in 2005.


Working as PAs on a small indie film set in LA, March 2008

Instead, it took me 5.5 years to graduate, during which time I fell in and out of love twice, studied abroad, was a PA on a small indie film, and made a documentary.  After college, I was not Whistler-bound (except to see the Olympics in 2010) and have yet to make it to Oz. Instead, I moved to Tennessee to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Because this plan, the travel-around-the-Pacific-and-move-to-Canada plan, was not what I wanted to do, even just 3 short years after I wrote it down.

Planning has always been one of my hobbies, and I’m very bad at spontaneity. But I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that planning too much or having such high expectations causes me more stress, disappointment and anxiety than satisfaction. I’ve been working with my TalkSpace counselor this year to learn to let go of things, to not need to plan, or at least to plan to NOT plan things. It’s been a challenging but positive learning experience.



So funny story from Rotterdam that could not have been planned or anticipated: We had a lot of time to kill before our appointment at the speakeasy. Around 10:45 we went back to the area where the bar is and looked for any other bar to have a drink in and wait. We see one that is closed for a private costume party (looked fun!) but right next door there’s one called Bar Le Petit so we go in. Did NOT notice the red light above the door……. All ladies at the bar. And they look weird when we come in. We ask if it’s a private party and make a joke about ladies night and sit down. DID NOT GET IT YET. Drinks are cheap, music is all good (old 1960s and 70s, a lot of classic French stuff), and three of the four women sitting at the bar are very friendly as is the bartender. We all chat, have a drink. When we get ready to leave for our appoiintment, we tell them all about the Doctor bar and they have never heard about it but want to know all about it and what we think and ask us to come back when we are done if we get finished by 2 am (when they close). So after our appointment (where we had to ring the secret bell 7 times and wait to be let in), we went BACK to the brothel and had another drink with the women before they shut down. There were a couple men at the bar and one of them talked ot us, saying he’d never seen a married couple come in to one of these places before LOL. Then I asked him why he enjoyed coming to these places, and we all chatted very pleasantly. Before we left, all but the one unfriendly girl hugged us, and two of the ladies plus the bartender took a group selfie with us 🙂 It was an awesome night!!!

By not planning everything, and actively trying to go with the flow and curb my anxiety, we’ve been able to have some pretty swell adventures and stumble onto unexpected experiences. Getting a tattoo with my dad. Randomly catching up with a friend from CA in NYC. Holding a baby jaguar. Working together. Accidentally hanging out with some ladies of the night in Rotterdam. Hanging out with some cruise crew members in port. Bringing a third cat into our family. Buying our dream house before we sold our old house.

Nothing about our current life resembles what I had planned for myself 10 years ago, and I love every single thing about it.

I have no idea what our life will look like in five or ten years. Will we have the same jobs? Will we be parents? Will we have more cats, or a new car, or finally have done our master bathroom remodel? I don’t know, and I’m okay with that.

Instead of a five-year plan I have my 40 Before 40 list and a bunch of goals for myself and my family. I want to continue working on my anxiety and getting healthier, physically and mentally. I want to host Thanksgiving, continue reading 52+ books every year, and learn to do crow pose for more than 5 seconds. There are half a dozen more tattoos I’d like one day. I’d love for us to host an exchange student and I want us to raise a global-conscious and travel-loving kiddo. When, or if, these things happen isn’t as important to me as having these goals as daily motivation. I’ll continue planning to NOT plan, trying to not fight the flow, and see what happens.


Are you more of a planner or a by-the-seat-of-your-pantser? What unexpected joys or adventures have you gotten by not over-planning? Do you make plans or set goals for your family? Do you have a X Before X list? What’s on your bucket or wander lists? 


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