I’ve never been particularly good at planning my future. Especially before age 30, I was content to follow the path that others suggested. What I studied, where I worked, and my hobbies arose more by not saying no to a suggestion than by my own design. I believed this lack of foresight was a complex problem, compounding my discomfort.
Two recent revelations came as welcome surprises. First, my unexpected actual life is more rewarding than attaining the expected life would be. If 18 year old Ryan opened the mail one day to find a biography of 38 year old Ryan, he would laugh and call it impossible. If I had obediently checked the boxes of personal and professional achievement my elders set before me as a teen, the best I could feel is a sense of relief. Instead, I experience moments of wide-eyed disbelief at the wild path I followed to today.
Second, less concern about the future leaves more attention to invest in the present. Every moment of worry or wonder about tomorrow is a moment of today that escapes unnoticed.
With such a wonderful current life, I can be certain of troubling, sad, and difficult times ahead. At least one recession, war, or pandemic will occur in my lifetime; or all three. The death of my parents’ generation will disrupt the current equilibrium of my family. Accident or acute illness for my wife or children is inescapable. I also expect to make mistakes as a husband, father, and employee. But with vigilance not to repeat the mistakes of my past, I can extend my fulfillment into future “todays.”
So in hindsight, it’s better that I never figured out how to plan my life. Each day, my intent is to demonstrate the values my wife and I wish to instill in our children. Perhaps they too will find that not over-planning the future will lead to a happier present.