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Wherever you go, enjoy ride

Cheryl-anne Millsap The Spokesman-Review

Over the holidays I had a short conversation with an old friend. We talked about where the events of our lives have taken us and about how far we have drifted from our original goals.

Before we said goodbye, my friend, his voice sounding a little sad, said, “The older I get, the more I see that life just doesn’t always turn out the way we expected it to.”

I murmured something in agreement, but I was mentally shaking my head. He hadn’t gotten it quite right.

Life never turns out the way we expect it to.

And, anyway, looking back, would I really want to be stuck with the life I plotted for myself when I was 18 or 25, or even 40? Thinking about it, I’d have to say no. So much of what we want or need changes with time.

When we are young, we believe that we have total control over our destiny. We’re both the pilot and the navigator. As years pass, we begin to understand that there are times, a great many times, that we’re just along for the ride. Whether we like it or not.

My friend, who recently turned 50, is still fighting the reality of his backseat position. But he’ll get there.

Eventually, male or female, each of us learns that no lifetime is lived in a straight, level, direct path from here to there. We have to adapt when family and friends, and later, colleagues and coworkers refuse to play by the rules. Well, by our rules, anyway. Then there’s marriage, or any other committed relationship. Talk about a train wreck of colliding goals.

And then there is parenting. From the moment you conceive a child, all bets are off. For some, the first stumbling block is conception itself. Then, the pregnancy doesn’t follow a script. There are surprises, complications and unknowns. We can choose, to a degree, how, where and when to give birth, but we are always at the mercy of circumstances beyond our control.

Once they’re here, children don’t follow our agenda or fall into the neat categories childcare experts and educators provided for us. Again, there are surprises and complications. They grow into independent individuals who would prefer to steer their own futures, thank you. In spite of our wisdom or experience, they’d rather learn their own tough lessons. Being a parent hammers the lesson home that we can’t completely rule our own lives and we can’t fully control the lives of anyone else. No matter how much we love them.

My friend is healthy and financially secure. He is loved by his family. He may not have planned for his life to turn out the way it has, and – like everyone – he is as disappointed with some of it as he is satisfied with the rest. But I think he is stubbornly missing the point.

The real gift, something he doesn’t yet appreciate, is that his life

didn’t

follow the plan. He mapped an unobstructed path to what he thought – at the time – would make him happy. What he got was a journey with twists and turns, hills and valleys; a roller coaster ride to a surprise location.

Think of what he would have missed. Think of what he’s missing because he can’t let go.

My friend and I don’t get a chance to talk very often. We each lead busy lives and we’re far apart. I wish I had had time to say one more thing to him. I wish I could have told him that there is no shame in letting go of the plan.

We can control a lot in our lives. But, and this is just as important, there are times when we have to surrender. And, sometimes, the bravest and most fulfilling thing we can do is to stop fighting the current and, instead, swim along to see where it will take us.

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