I have a confession to make…. Hi my name is Jersey Girl and I am a planner! Yep there it is, I’ve said it. I am the one you find, addictively buying everything pretty in Paperchase, just so I can document every inch of my life. I have spreadsheeted Christmas! I have also been known to have a rather lovely pink Filofax, back in the day, that came everywhere and was my only comfort sitting alone in a coffee shop pondering the week ahead. So I may have moved on from my little pink book, but last week as I spent the morning colour coding my calendar on my iPhone (I know don’t judge me!) I realised that there is still a planner lurking deep down inside me. The issue now is that my expat existence doesn’t allow my wonderful gift to flourish. Now whilst I am sure that Hubby is relieved by this prospect, it had me thinking…do I still really need it?
To plan or not to plan;that is the question
This need to plan started young, as a society we impress the youth with deadlines and time restraints up until we are young adults. Primary school until we are 11, secondary school to 16, college until 18. It is a never-ending schedule, that we are expected to stick to, so is it any wonder that my obsessive, perfectionist virgoisms kicked in and I continued to plan out my life?! At the age of 19 I took myself off to performing arts school and had my next 5 years mapped out, nothing was going to stop me, until it did. When my back injury stopped that dream dead, I didn’t know what to do, god forbid I was now off plan and I went into free fall. Many lost months later, I took a deep breath and thought its fine. Ok, I won’t be a dancer but I can still be married by 25 (not having a boyfriend didn’t seem to deter me) baby #1 by 28, #2 by 30 and then I would live my perfect picket fence life.
At 25 I was in a dead-end relationship, unmarried and I lost my father. Free fall number 2. You would think at this point that I would realise that life was too short and that you can’t plan everything, never knowing what is around the corner. Nope I was still sure I could get back on track, so I ditched the bloke and sure enough round the corner came the love of my life. Things were looking up and the game plan was in play. Wrong! I fell head over heels and married the complete opposite, he was anything but a planner, if I got him to plan past the end of next week I was lucky and that freaked me out big time. So can you imagine my reaction when expat life in Prague was on the table. I wanted to go, we were ready to go and start a new adventure, but there is not enough time to ever prepare you for a move, let alone your first.
What most wandering expats realise, is that when a move is decided (which is normally attached to a job relocation, outside of an emigrating scenario) it all happens very fast. You pretty much have 3 months or less to pack up and go, which for me was the scary part. It needed to be planned to death, in order for me not to be reaching for the Valium and spending most of the 3 months drunk. So excel spreadsheets were created, my big move list was drawn up and I was ready to take it on. And there you have it, the move to a new country was made and I had survived, maybe with a couple of freak outs, but we did it. Something outside of the box, outside of my life plan had happened and the world had not ended. Maybe there was something to this flying by the seat of your plants lark!?
Whilst I may have got better with over planning every detail, I realised that everyone else is still obsessed with wanting to know your plan. Every time we went home we were asked the same question by everyone
Whats the plan?
How long do you think you’ll stay out there?
Seriously people, I have just let go of having this question go round and round in my head and now you want to throw it back out there!? It is at this point of the conversation I generally smile and nod, I am not giving it a timescale for someone to quote back to me or hold over my head down the line. Instead we spin out our usual patter, of we will be there as long as we are happy. This is obviously the truth, but whilst some expats are contracted to locations for a set period of time, Hubby and I have been lucky enough that our moves are self decided and when the timing is right for us.
Having said that, I think in my head I still have a little inkling of how long I would like to stay somewhere. If we are liking it, then long enough to have grown into the place and built a life, but short enough that we aren’t hating it or it becomes stale. Will our expat adventures take us to our forever home? Who knows if we will even get a forever home, we maybe in this continual transient life forever.
I guess the question I have to ask myself is, is that ok? Can my inner planner fully let go? Most days the answer is yes. I have learnt to be more spontaneous and less hung up on what life markers should be achieved, realising that actually, what difference does it actually make if my five year plan is currently 10 years off schedule! This life has taught me so much about myself and I have gained so much from it. The fact that I can’t plan long term is a good thing, I now focus on the now and making the most of every opportunity. Imagine all the things I would have missed out on, if my so called life plan, had actually gone to plan!
So, I guess what I am saying, is whilst my colour coded calendar keeps me happy and organised, it isn’t stopping or restricting me. I may sit and scrawl Pinterest for hours building a board full of home interiors, for a house I may never have, but its ok. I am giving myself permission not to have a plan. Instead I am going to enjoy the year ahead, live for now and not worry about what comes next, because sometimes the best adventures are just that; adventure: an unusual and exciting or daring experience
and that can’t be planned.