My Eyes

island afar

Do my eyes deceive me or is there ahead

A place to have dwelling, to lay my bed

A time of rest and a shelter of tree

Or do my eyes deceive me?

 

Is yonder vision a heavenly grove

Where the waterfall mists with triumphant love

And in the lushest of gardens there

Where many stripes are stripped of care

Do I confess I’ve wondered where

Such a perfect boon might ever be

Or do my eyes deceive me?

 

It seems far off but within this tide

To look away seems like foolish pride

From this tropic where I’ll reside

My vision’s clarity can’t be denied

Coolness of river and orchards inside

Relief and pleasure therein supplied

 

And yet the sun burns harsher now

And the vision fades, gone with the shades

But I cling to the memory of how

I’m heading toward a wondrous place in the glades

It’s still out there in the blurried sea

Or do my eyes deceive me?

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Plans

Plans

When you are a young adult, (as many of you have been, and many of you are) people are fond of asking you about your plans. What is your career trajectory? Where do you want to be in five years? Where are you going to live? How are you providing for the future?

I have a handful of friends who are still finishing up college, and at this point these questions have grown tiresome to them. Every time they say hello, there’s another expectant face asking about their plans. And here’s the thing- in a surprise to no one- most of them have no idea. “I’m twenty years old, leave me alone!” “How the heck am I supposed to know? I’ll get a job? I guess?”

I think the questioning is well intentioned for the most part. Elder counterparts of those just joining the currents of the proverbial real world want to help others avoid their mistakes or wasted time, or they happened to do well out of the gate and they want to push others to do the same. Either way, there seems to be a disconnect. It feels like an unfair question a lot of the time. How in the world am I supposed to know what life looks like in ten years? I may have a direction, but directions change, don’t they?

Most Americans change careers several times in their lives. Most everyone changes relationship statuses at least once. People move. The economy tanks. The economy skyrockets. Opportunity comes and goes. Buying into a horse and buggy business sounded great until Mr. Ford came around. Some tides can be predicted, others simply can’t. And yet, there is a pressure (not just for college grads, but really everyone) to have their entire life laid out. It’s as if we’re giving orders to a maitre d’ at a fancy restaurant.

“Excellent choice of career changes, sir. Would you like to pair that with a vacation home in Nassau? And when will you be dying this evening?”

Dwight D. Eisenhower put it best, I think. He said that plans are worthless while planning is invaluable. I have to agree with him. I think stating it in this way takes out a lot of the ambiguity and pressure.

I may or may not be a smart guy, but one thing I’m not for certain is a fortune teller. I can’t write out my plans, etch them into stone, overlay it with bronze and then never divert from them at all. Life just isn’t that stable. But here’s the thing about plans that doesn’t get said nearly enough: they can change, and that’s okay. Going into uncertainty with a good plan is infinitely better than winging it all of the time. And yet, since there is uncertainty, there will always be variables we couldn’t have accounted for until we found ourselves immersed in them. That’s when we pull out the pencil, erase a few lines and call a few audibles.

I write about this today because I feel like I see a lot of frustration. I’ve even experienced it myself. We make these grand, ornate plans, but then life just doesn’t want to cooperate. When we try to grit our teeth and refuse to budge on any aspect of our ten points to success, usually nothing happens, we fall behind, and we get depressed. Oftentimes this is when people simply quit. I’m reminded of a much less famous quote (alright, my brother said it), “You’re only stuck if you don’t move.”

I see frustration the other way as well- friends who have never bothered to really sit down and make an attack strategy, and then they wonder why things never work out. In short, it’s pretty difficult to nab an opportunity when you have zero idea of what sort of opportunity you’re aiming at. Learning to plan is great, because if you do it well you’ll be doing it your entire life. There’s a change in the wind, but we can throw our papers in the air with a smile, because even though we need to write a new plan, we’ve done this dozens of times, and it’s gotten easier. Refusing to make plans simply because life shifts and we might have to change them is like not taking a shower because you might get dirty later.

Life is beautiful. It’s full of things that I can’t control- and yet I can control the decisions that I make. The way that I interact with the variables will always be shifting, but I can adjust too. I’m not saying to give up on your dreams or to abandon your purpose; I’m simply saying that most sure roads wind quite a bit. (Or we might even say they’re anfractuous, if we’re feeling particularly erudite.)

I have some very clear goals in my life that I have no intention of changing, and yet the way I see myself getting there has changed several times. The world shifts, and so does my strategy. And yet my resolve and my purpose remain firm. The reed that bends does not break, correct? And yet it’s still rooted in the ground.

Life is a Movie

Movie

Life is a movie.

I know what you’re thinking- it isn’t at all like that. We dream up scenarios where the prince always rides up on a white horse, or if you’re the prince you save the stunning damsel, and there’s a bad guy, of course, but he’s simple even if he’s smart. He’ll tell you his plans and there’s always a way out. Every line is witty and clever, every moment perfection. Cue the credits, ride into the sunset. People think life is this kind of movie sometimes, and they inevitably end up hurt, confused, desperate, and despondent.

So we say life isn’t like a movie.

But it is.

Life is a well-written movie, and the distinction is crucial.

My journey has a beginning, a middle, and an end, but I didn’t get to look at the box before we started this thing, so I don’t know how long it is. Maybe today is still the beginning. Maybe it’s halfway over. Maybe it’s the final scene. Whenever it happens: beginning, middle, and end.

There’s a love interest- but like any properly written story, it isn’t always so clear. A heart can be pulled in a hundred directions, even if it only has one true bearing. And here’s a twist- sometimes people don’t marry the best one for them, their one. They’re out there, but people get impatient sometimes, going forward with something they know isn’t the best. Just when you suspect you know what’s going to happen, it shifts. A hope becomes a let-down.

But sometimes the opposite happens. Sometimes a let-down blossoms in hope. The nerdy girl in the glasses really does look beautiful at prom sometimes, but never in the way you’d expect. The kid who got cut from every team he tried out for becomes an incredible athlete, and maybe he even takes a squad to the championship game!

But this is a well-written movie, so you never know if they’re going to win it or let the opportunity slip and be forced to find redemption elsewhere. You never know what to expect. But there is always redemption. This is a movie, after all.

There is a moment where we can say “all is lost,” or the “dark hour of the soul.” In a well-written movie, sometimes there’s more than one. Recovery can be swift and instant, or it can be slow and painful. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. Twists and turns, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out, something new hits you. Your expectations, for better or worse, fall through. The writer of this grand script never takes the easy way out. He takes the interesting path, the best path, the path that makes this thing a story worth telling.

There’s a whole host of characters, but none of them are flat. Everyone is a round character, only I just haven’t found that out yet. Maybe the mailman actually is a spy, but maybe he’s a train collector- or a sportsman, or a skier, or a terrible husband, or a wonderful friend. Back stories abound, and in fact they’re never ending. See, because in a well-written movie (not just any movie) the writer knows that all of his characters have lives. Even the extras are full of worlds and stories. There just isn’t enough time to tell you all of them, so you only see a few.

In fact, they’re all movies too. I just can’t watch all of them. I can’t even really watch another whole one in its entirety.

There will be triumph, when it looks like there’s no way out, there will be- but will I take it? There’s character development for some, and some are stuck in a rut, but it all serves to advance the plot. What is the plot? In truth, I don’t entirely know. I could tell you bits and pieces, and I could tell you my guess, but at this point I think you know how much my guesses are worth. Things shift again. The writer is way ahead of me. I just sat down to watch this, while he spent months planning it out.

There will be tragedy, I guarantee it. What use is a film where nothing bad happens? It’s boring, is what it is. Struggle, for whatever reason, seems to be a requirement for growth and change. Heck, even a painting needs conflict, or else the eye grows tired of it quickly, and then is it even really art? Art is passion, and passion is pain, but not forever.

Because there is a sunset. And I’m riding towards it. I don’t know how many offshoots and subplots and various adventures I’ll have before I get there, but there’s one thing I’m sure of:

Life is a movie.

A well-written movie.