Saturday, September 7, 2013

#108: Schedule Time for Spontaneity

Every spare moment throughout my summer was planned to a tee. I played in two soccer leagues. Started a Lean In circle. May's weekends were filled with bachelorette parties and weddings. June it was weddings, birthdays and soccer games (both playing and observing). July... well, July was entirely filled with celebrations for my mom's 60th birthday. And then came August. The busiest month of my life. I spent two glorious weeks touring the Dalmatian coast in Croatia and sightseeing in magical Istanbul. Only 36 hours after my return, I found myself presenting at a conference in Washington, DC. I barely had time to do my laundry in my brief layover at home in Toronto.

And then, it was over. Soccer ended. I had no more birthdays to celebrate. Two weeks until the next wedding in my schedule, and no more bachelorettes or wedding showers. The Labour Day long weekend came and I carefully planned nothing. I looked forward to a weekend catching up on reading, writing, visits with family, and clocking some good old fashioned Me Time.

But isn't that just the problem with free time? It just frees you up to opportunities you didn't plan. And that's exactly why it's so necessary.

The first free weekend I've had all summer (and, coincidentally, the unofficial last weekend of summer), an unplanned opportunity landed in my lap. A friend was planning a trip by herself to Vermont, to be a bridesmaid in a mutual friend's wedding. We engaged in a text message conversation the Friday night of the Labour Day long weekend: she lamenting the long drive to Vermont alone; me envious of her weekend in the mountains.

A few more text messages later, she had a date to the wedding. I was packed and ready for a road trip to a backyard wedding at a cottage in Vermont.

But, why? Didn't I just want to chill out and unwind from "the busiest month of my life?" Yes, I did. And I will. (I am, today. And for the rest of the Fall/Winter.) Last weekend I learned there is an alternative benefit to scheduling free time (besides, you know, enjoying it): you open yourself up to spontaneous, unplanned experiences. Which, I also learned, are so much better than the planned-to-a-tee kind.
Me and my buddy hitting the road to Vermont... In a Chrysler s300! The weekend was full of happy surprises!

My friend and I had an outstanding time. We partied with new friends, stayed at a beautiful ski resort, hiked through the mountains of Vermont (which I had never seen before), and I had the pleasure of attending a dear friend's enchanting wedding day. We could have planned that weekend all summer. But it would never have been as good as the unplanned, spontaneous version it was.

Next summer, I'm keeping my free time free. Either I get to enjoy it, or I spontaneously fill it up with an experience so good that no amount of planning could ever predict.