Study hard. Finish high school. Graduate college. Get a job. Get married. Have some kids. That was the plan. It has been my parent’s plan for me since before I even learned the word “plan.” But you see, there’s a slight hitch.
I don’t really like plans.
Pretty much everything I do is decided in the heat of the moment or, at best, late the night before. That’s the way I like it. Quite frankly, planning stresses me out. I know. I know. Most people (cough, cough, my cousin Talara) like knowing exactly what they are doing, when they are doing it, how long it will take, how much it will cost, when they will take a potty break, what house their zodiac sign is in and every other teeny tiny detail about said plan.
But I hate that. When I go grocery shopping, I wander aimlessly through the aisles looking for things that strike my fancy. That’s a recipe (get it? because groceries) for disaster since I end up with a moldy zucchini and wilted kale more often than I like to admit, but I just can’t be bothered to make a list much less a meal plan before I head to the store.
In my experience, planning overshadows the unknown. If you have a schedule to adhere to, you don’t have time to pop into a cute little boho boutique tucked in between big buildings. You can’t walk into a restaurant just because it smells good. And you certainly won’t find yourself standing on a bridge in Chicago at 1 a.m. watching the skyline’s reflection dance across the river water.
I’ve been there though, and it’s one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken.
My two photographer friends and I had one day in between the swim meets we were photographing across the Midwest, so instead of attempting to recuperate from the days of carting a 10 pound camera around a slippery pool deck from sun up to sun down, we decided to take our slightly smaller (but still heavy) cameras for a day long excursion around the Windy City.
Our one and only plan? Locate some Chicago-style pizza.
We arrived aroundjust before noon, paid an obscene price for parking, and walked a few blocks to Pizzeria Uno – the birthplace of the deep dish pizza. Sitting on the patio in the unseasonably cool July air, we could see the restaurant’s expansion suitably named Pizzeria Due on a street corner diagonal to the original. Side note: if your pizza can support two restaurants on essentially the same block for 60 years, you’re doing something right.
With full stomachs, we set out in the general direction of Cloud Gate (AKA the giant metallic bean that is a must visit for Chicago tourists). Fourteen hours and more than twelve miles of wandering later, we got lost on the way to our car. Somehow we ended up walking across this iron bridge over the Chicago River probably a mile down from where we originally crossed. Instead of the looming buildings through which we had initially crossed the river, we were greeted by an orange-tinged night sky glittering with a batillion of dark buildings.
There we were in the middle of the night holding thousands of dollars in camera equipment in a city where you are heavily cautioned against walking around alone at reasonable hour much less at nearly two in the morning. We couldn’t find our car. We had another four hours of driving left before we reached our beds. And yet, we didn’t have a fear in the world. That probably wouldn’t have happened if we had just planned our trip, and what a shame that would have been.
Flash forward to the present where I sit on a rooftop in Honolulu typing this on a breezy, 83 degree afternoon. Friday is my birthday, but I don’t know where I’m eating or where I’m going or who will join me. My only plans for this week involve tonight’s free pizza (I’m sensing a theme here) at the hostel I’m living at and potentially a birthday dinner for my drawing partner tomorrow night. That’s as far in advance as I know anything these days.
When I left for Hawaii, I was certain of exactly two things: I would stay at a hostel for a week and I would get my advanced certification in SCUBA diving. Since then, I’ve scheduled sunrise hikes at midnight. I have made more impromptu beach trips than I can keep track of. I’ve climbed in a car more than once not knowing where we were going or what we were doing there. I have lived wildly and freely in the present.
My mother keeps asking me about my plans. How long will I be here? When am I going to get a real job? What am I doing with my life?
But I don’t know. I don’t want to know.
People always ask how long I’m staying here. At first, I would tell them that I would be here until at least November. Then I started saying that I was trying to move to Hawaii but I wanted to make sure I could make it work. But now I’ve adopted a new response. When they asked how long I’ll be here, I have a simple reply.
I’ll be here until I leave.
“Live in the present, remember the past, and fear not the future, for it doesn’t exist and never shall. There is only now.” – Saphira (Eldest by Christopher Paolini)