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Breathing Space

Life is better without plans

An empty diary and no five-year agenda – Marisa Bate is coming to realise that she doesn't need a masterplan 

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By Marisa Bate on

I recently went on a hen do. It was as you might imagine – women in their thirties, drinking wine and talking too much. 

And one of the things we kept talking too much about were plans. Plans to move to Latin America. Plans to move to Barcelona. Plans to get married. Plans to have babies. Plans to quit one career and start another. And we all asked about the plans: “Have you spoken to Jon about this?” "Does Emily know you’re thinking that?” "Do you think you want children?” And on we went, mapping out our lives and each other’s lives as much as we possibly could, except we couldn’t really do much but speculate and rely on ifs and buts. And yet still we asked: “Will you ever live abroad?” 

When it comes to the small things, I don’t plan. I don’t like plans. I like an empty diary and a free weekend. I like an email at 5pm that says, “Fancy a drink?” and I can say yes because I have no plans. I like long Saturdays where I wander and maybe go for coffee or maybe buy the paper or maybe go to an afternoon film. Or maybe not. My plan-free life is the room to breathe around the often breathless pace of my job and simply existing in London. (In the interest of transparency, I’m also kind of cheating because I have a lot of planner friends. I don’t think this is a coincidence or that enjoyable for them.) 

And being at the place where everything had once felt so new and possible and open reminded me that I actually liked not having plans – and not just on a Saturday night, but next Saturday night and the one after that

 

Yet, when it comes to Life and The Big Shit, I can’t say I always embrace a plan-free agenda so well. Or, at least, I get very concerned with other people’s plans. Do I want to go to Latin America or Barcelona? Why aren’t I learning Spanish? And what international destination should I be heading to? Do I need a new career? Or house? Should I be saving more money? Others people’s plans swarm round me like mosquitos, creating an itch for something I didn’t necessarily want before.

But, as a friend and I walked along Brighton beach, a place synonymous with our university days, and she asked me about plans, I felt the rush of ocean next to me and the chatter carried by the wind, and the bright colours of the pier danced on the light in front of me, and I realised, on that walk, that I didn’t have any plans. And that was OK. I left that same beach over a decade ago as a student without any plans, and I’ve been OK. I’ve had adventures, lived in other countries, fallen in and out of relationships and jobs. I’ve been fine. 

And being at the place where everything had once felt so new and possible and open reminded me that I actually liked not having plans – and not just on a Saturday night, but next Saturday night and the one after that. And, as my friend asked me about Life and The Big Shit, I became aware, in the sunshine of Brighton beach, that I was happy with things right now, as they are. And that I didn’t need to know where I would be in a year or three years or five years.

And, actually, I preferred it this way because, for me, nothing beats the thrill of the unknown, of surprise and possibility. I don’t want anything ruled out. I want every door open. And that’s the problem with plans, big and small. They close some doors. They rule some stuff out. And I don’t ever want to lose that feeling of being 21 years old, on that beach, looking out to sea and all that could and might be. That tingles through my veins like magic, even now. So why would I give that up, when I don’t need to? Why would I rule anything out? Why would I make plans? 

And so, while at the beginning of the weekend my head had been full of worries about plans I didn’t have, I left taking a longer, harder look at what I do have. At what my life is like right now.  

And no, I don’t a Plan A or a Plan B or even a Plan C. And that’s more than alright by me. 

@marisajbate

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Breathing Space

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