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Best Laid Plans of Fragments and Shrapnel

One of the good things about the crappy economy is that it forces people to think what is really important. Many of my friends and colleagues have been contemplating making changes in their lives but saying they just don’t know what is out there and which direction to take. I’ve been feeling the same way and it was no coincidence when a quote from writer Anthony Greenbank was forwarded to me last week. He said, “To live through an impossible situation, you don’t need the reflexes of a Grand Prix driver, the muscles of a Hercules, or the mind of an Einstein. You simply need to know what to do.”

Really? I just have to know what to do? That’s all? I really want to work for Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations but I don’t think camping outside of his Upper West Side New York apartment is going to get me my dream job. If I’m lost in the woods in my shorts and t-shirt with no map, I can sit down and cry or I can keep walking and get even more lost.

Now, I’m not dissing Mr. Greenbank because he does write outdoor survival books but what I am dissing is the idea that there is some great map or book that will help us reach our dreams if we follow the plan. When I was a kid my parents never told me I couldn’t be an astronaut or a great mathematician. What they did tell me was to focus on what I was really good at set realistic goals and guidelines for myself. We all seem to think that if we have a dream and we work really hard we can get what we want. And we can, but we also have to be honest with ourselves. I have no math or science skills. I can understand and appreciate their applications but would fail miserably if I had do anything complicated beyond long addition and adding baking soda to my recipe. Instead, I focus on what I’m going at. I can write and I’m really creative. I have creative friends and resources so I use those to walk along this path and figure out what I want from life.

Self help authors will tell us if we follow their 10 step plan, we can lose weight, become super models, and make our business successful. Unfortunately, it takes more than just ten steps and a book to do this. I am of the opinion that we have to create our own path through the trees and try not to trip over the rocks and roots as we walk. If we do, we cry because it hurts and get up and move on. We ask for help when we get really lost and try to make wise decisions when we get to the fork in the road. Sometimes we have to scrap everything and start over; sometimes we can take those scraps and make something truly wonderful. I used to have a professor in college who told us we couldn’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit. But we can make some mighty fine compost for which to grow our own lettuce and carrots and make a fine salad in the end.

What about you, gentle reader? What sort of maps and tools do you use, to quote Prince, to get through this thing we call life? Do you believe in 5-year plans or do you just make plans until the end of the week? Hmm… 5-year plans.. I think that’s another blog post I’ll save for another time.

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About Anna Alexander

I am a freelance writer and producer living in the Pacific Northwest. My husband and I live with our cat Grendel who lets us pay his mortgage.

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