My life has never been spontaneous. Every day that I can remember ever living was planned, right down to the minute, to the second. I would wake up at 5:30, and from 5:30 to 6:00 I would finish homework or study. I would take a ten-minute shower and get dressed at 6:10 on the dot. I would take another ten minutes to do my hair and put on makeup if I felt like wearing it. I would eat a planned breakfast at 6:20 and at 6:25 I would pack my lunch, brush my teeth, and pack my backpack before leaving for school at exactly 6:45. School started at 7:40 in high school, but I liked to have time to talk to friends and study after I got to school at 7:00. Sometimes I got to school at 6:53, if I walked fast.
I’ve never been late for class. If I could be I was early, and for the most part school passed steadily.
I would stay after school until 3:45 when I had newspaper meetings, and on those days I would get home at 4:00. I had an hour to do my homework, and on the nights I had marching band I would practice piano from 5:00 to 6:00 before getting ready and leaving at 6:10. Practice didn’t start until 6:30, but I helped set up and organize the practice. After practice I’d get home at 8:15 and eat dinner. I would read at 8:45 and get ready for the next day at 9:45. I’d study and finish homework until 11:45 and to go bed at 12:00.
Nothing ever changed.
When I had extra time on weekends and such, I would plan and organize, making and revising schedules, cleaning my room and matting out my future. When I was in elementary school I was ready for middle school, and in middle school I planned for high school, deciding what things I would do and when I would do them. In my freshman year, I decided what college I would go to, wrote my application essays, and tucked them away in my ‘future’ folder. The folder grew over the years, and by junior year I knew what job I would have, where I would work and where I would live, what my house would look like and how much money I would have.
I knew it all.
I knew how long I would work, what my funeral would be like, what my obituary would say.
The present didn’t matter, and neither did the past. Only the future, and as the folder grew, everything else got smaller, farther away, unimportant. I focused so much on the future that when I finally stopped and looked back I realized that I missed out on my entire childhood…
I missed out on my life.
At that moment, smiling on the stage at my high school graduation in my valedictorian gold, I decided to stop focusing on the future. I had already missed my entire life.
I couldn’t miss the rest of it.
When I got home I opened my folder and smiled at every dream and plan that I had, the matriculate hand writing, color coded sections, post its where additions had been made.
Then I threw it all away. I watched my future disappear, seeming to fly away in a breeze, carried off into the horizon. In a way, it was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I had no plan, no future, no ropes holding me down. No path.
I was free.
I told my mom I was going for a drive. When she asked where I was going and when I’d be back, I just shrugged and said I didn’t know. She didn’t say anything, just gave me a strange look and nodded. So I got in the car and drove. I didn’t use a map, and the I only knew where I was when I drove through towns and saw their tiny signs welcoming and dismissing me. The ‘thank you for visiting’, ‘come back soon’, never to be seen again towns. When I finally stopped and got out of the car, it was nearly midnight. I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t have a plan.
Standing under the stars and the moon, the north star invisible somewhere light years away, I decided to live spontaneously.
I missed out on my life.
I won’t miss anymore.