On my flight down to Florida a month ago I had one of those great flights where you sit down next to someone cool and talk for the whole three hours. It started when I was standing in line to get on the plane. The flight was from Chicago to Florida in October, so most of the passengers were old couples fleeing for the winter. However, Amidst the sea of snow birds, there was one twenty-something girl with a backpacking bag.
If you’ve ever sat in an airport for an hour, you know that pretty much the only thing to do is make up life stories for the people walking by. Also, if you’re anything like me then the most compelling characters for these make believe stories are the twenty-somethings with backpacking bags. Anyway, we were standing in line and I was hoping her seat was next to mine so I could hear her real story.
I boarded early, somewhere at the back of the plane, and she was the last one on, taking the seat next to me. After some small talk I discovered she was heading south to live with her boyfriend on a boat. They hadn’t been together for too long, but he grew up in Florida and sailed for most of his life. Okay yeah that’s interesting.
“How long are you going to stay” I asked.
She replied with one of the most whimsical replies that a human can hold, but I think is often overlooked.
“I don’t know.”
It turns out she had never even been on a boat, but she wanted to learn how to sail, so she was going for it. She didn’t have a master life plan, but she didn’t need one. If she hated it, then she would figure something else out, but she had to try.
In movies and books they call it an inciting incident, the big moment that calls a character out of their daily lives to tend to something bigger than themselves. I don’t know if the girl that sat next to me on the plane had to move because her house burnt down or her dog died or something, but I doubt it. See, the inciting incident is great for characters in books, but we aren’t characters in a book, we are real people living real stories every single day, and I don’t think we need to wait for some big event to move our story along.
One of my favorite movies is the rookie. It’s one of those I watched too much as a kid and now it brings nostalgic moments when I watch it. Anyways, it’s a baseball movie and there is this scene where Dennis Quaid is talking to his team about dreams. They had just taken a devastating loss and he is trying to get them to care.
“Most of you guys are going to graduate, you’re going to work at Earl’s tire barn, you’re going to raise a family, and you’re going to do all that right here in Big Lake. There’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of good people are doing that, I’m doing it. But, I’m talking about wanting something more.” He is telling the boys that they have a chance to aspire for something better, that they have a future in reach. “The problem is I see it and you don’t.” This simple realization changes the movie and everyone’s lives get exponentially more interesting.
However, we are all human, and being human means we have deep aspirations to do big things. It also means that we are really good at making excuses. It’s these little excuses – whatever it is for you – we tell ourselves that allow us to refrain from doing something better. My thing is I like to pretend I need to have everything figured out to do anything, in this way I become crippled in a stage of planning without making any moves.
We wake up every day with the opportunity to live whatever story we’ve always wanted to, but we routinely choose not to. And here’s the deal, I’m not talking about moving into a boat for an indefinite amount of time. I’m not saying you need to move to Haiti to live the life you want. Every day we are given many opportunities to be a different person, a better person, someone who cares about the people around them and thinks about others more than them self.
I don’t know why there is a force in the world that causes us to dream up excuses for not being who we want to be, but there is, and it takes an intentional effort to start moving. You don’t have to have everything figured out, you don’t have to wait around for some inciting incident, you just have to want something more.