Monday, December 29, 2008

This I Believe #2: Nights Left Open to Chance

Installment #2 of my personal This I Believe series.

This I Believe: Nights Left Open to Chance

When I was a senior in college, my housemate stuck a calendar quote on my door one evening while I was busy studying. It was from Mignon McLaughlin: "For the happiest life, days should be rigorously planned, nights left open to chance."

My 21-year-old brain interpreted this as "make sure your studying gets done in daylight so you can hang out with friends after dinner." But now, four years later, seen through the lens of young adulthood, its meaning has evolved from a 1-minute essay on time management to a lesson about living in the moment.

Indeed, no court of law could convict me of being too spontaneous. I hold my To-Do list holy. I like to plan out how I spend time and money. And I'm usually not eager to toss aside carefully crafted schedules.

I've discovered, however, that living on my own has quietly, subtly, stealthily forced more flexibility upon me. Being in charge of me and only me reinforces how quickly time passes. I see that productivity, though necessary, doesn't always bring me the right kind of happiness. So I know it's up to me now to grab hold of those chance opportunities that lead to freer, more fluid life experiences.

Yesterday was one of those days. It was the end of a satisfying Christmas holiday, and I was driving home with my housemate Jacob -- a routine and pre-planned affair. We were singing along to the radio, telling stories, sharing silences, all around having a grand time.

I didn't want it to end. So as a desperate half-joke, I suggested we stop along the way and catch a movie, just to keep our vacation going.

To my surprise, Jacob agreed, even though it was a work night for him. Within minutes the usual route was abandoned. We found ourselves Googling directions from his phone; making U-turns all over Columbia, Md.; eating macaroni-and-cheese and chicken pot pies at Boston Market; and ending up at a movie theater to see Slumdog Millionaire.

Maybe this doesn't sound terribly exciting to you. After all, it's not like we jetted off to Paris or discovered a wild party in an old warehouse or did any other event often cited as "spontaneous." But it was OUR adventure, our moment to turn the ordinary upside down even a little bit, our chance to forget responsibility and live out our free will with nothing but a healthy sense of the ridiculous urging us on.

So we didn't worry about wasting time, because we weren't. Quite the opposite: we were squeezing every last ounce of juice from it in a fit of idealogical thrift.

The result? I learned my way around a Maryland shopping center. I ate Velveeta for the first time in years. And I realized anew how much I love -- really, truly love -- my resident partner-in-crime.

It was a night -- a heart -- a life left open to chance ... all of which I intend to pursue more rigorously. I hope Mignon is proud.


  1. Anonymous10:57 PM

    I must say, I used to consider myself to be a pretty well rounded and clever fellow, but after reading several entries of this blog, including Black Hockey Jesus, and The Wind in my Vagina, I must say, I am completely at a loss. I can not understand what the words on the screen are saying to me, let alone why they are interesting. Am I alone here or are there others out there who are just as confused as I? Please let me know as I would like to start a bloggers support group for those who do not understand this higher form of entertainment. Thank You. Richard David, The "Dumb Plumber"

  2. Anonymous11:02 PM

    Dumb Plumber, I am interested in joining your bloggers support group. Is there any room??? Please advise! Crazy in NJ

  3. Hi Rich and Crazy: No support group necessary. The beauty of blogging is its wide spectrum: there are so many blogs with so many different focuses, that everyone can find something they like.

    (Hence my inclusion of Black Hockey Jesus -- he's doing something really different in this space and I find his writing style interesting.)

    And like any other art or entertainment, there are people who do it well and those who do it poorly. Find what works for you as a audience member!

  4. Anonymous1:25 PM

    Dear Oola, Is it possible Oop saw the light in the darkness of that cave? Were the drawings on the wall so suggestive they caused spontaineous aggressive action on the part of this caveman or did some feminine wile exude some overwhelming attar?
    I pray it shall not become "of all sad words of toung or pen, the saddest of these, it might have been" The origanal.

  5. Anonymous6:32 PM

    Hi Julia,
    I'll stick with Lidia's Italy, Andrea's Recipes and The Onion. Now these I can relate to. Happy New Year! Love, Crazy in NJ

  6. Crazy (who might be Krista?): See, I've got something on that blogroll for everyone!! ;) Enjoy!