Plans are Better than Goals

I have a plan that I’m halfway through. It’s a simple, meta plan that helps me to clearly, tangibly spell out other plans for the year. I’d call them “goals,” but that word has complicated connotations. It suggests that we would like to do things but aren’t sure we can accomplish them. It’s something we’ve turned into a hashtag and trivialized so much that the word has lost its meaning. Plans are things that we’re going to do. These are things I’m going to do.

Matt is my best friend. I rarely see him anymore, the last time we hung out he really pissed me off, and he is definitely reading this right now. His is an unwaveringly dedicated and tough love. He is difficult to track down and possesses an infectious ambition. He doesn’t make goals, he makes plans. He rubbed me the wrong way by insisting that we wake up fewer than five hours after we arrived at our hotel in Utah on the first leg of my road trip last summer. I’d been hit by a car barely a month prior and had a horrible concussion. No business buying an old car or driving it all day every day or sleeping in motel beds or hiking Angel’s Landing. He couldn’t understand the skull-shattering, non-point-source pain that I felt in my brain all day every day. Then again, neither could I. So we argued like brothers and compromised on a 5:40 AM wakeup call after shutting off the lights a tick shy of 1 AM.

Of course, I survived and we summited Angel’s Landing before 9 AM which is a rather ridiculous feat, capped only by his hitchhiking back to Los Angeles that day and my making it in time for dinner in Aspen, Colorado that night. Another day in the life for both of us. I was on-edge about everything because of my brain injury, but I remember the feeling of being on top of that terrifying precipice way more clearly than I remember my headache or his nagging insistence on doing, going, being. Maybe it was insensitive to push me so hard. Or maybe it was exactly what I needed. The yo-yo of my life since last June suggests the latter…

Last year, Matt made a list of things he was going to do that year. A list of plans. The list read more like most people’s lifetime bucket list, if they were also avid outdoorsmen and master con artists and sports fans and music aficionados and gluttons for punishment. And he did every single one. So, naturally, this year he erased all of his crossed off plans and started anew. The last time we talked, he encouraged me to do the same. Because I never give myself enough credit for the things I do plan and accomplish, and because it’s essential that we have something challenging and inspiring to look forward to. Not just promotions and down payments, but things that give us butterflies and make us curse under our breath and giggle and feel fundamentally alive.

I’ve been floundering on actually making my list. He demanded a rough draft 24 hours after his suggestion, and I delivered. Then I just had to commit to actually making something cool to write the physical list on, that I could start and end every day staring at and working towards. Last week, I bought sandpaper and primer and brushes and chalkboard paint so I can turn some artsy and substantial object into my canvas. I’ve yet to find that object, and sometimes I feel like I need the list just to go find the right object to finish my list.

Of course, this is textbook depression, knowing what you need to do and just not quite being able to do it. I want(ed) to go to Arkansas, like, yesterday. Spend a couple of days in Fayetteville and another couple at a relative’s cabin just up the river from my favorite trout stream in the Ozarks. The inertia dragged me down, made getting organized and driving sound like an insurmountable chore. Just like finding the right object to finish my chalkboard and unveil my list to the world. In addition to never feeling like writing, I’ve been trying to put the heat on myself by not posting anything else to my website until I finished the list and could share photos of the finished project, all Etsy-ed out and written in my best grade-school chalkboard handwriting.