Your Plans Are Going To Get Derailed Sometimes
I’ve been thinking lately about how quickly plans can change.
With the Covid-19 pandemic still at the forefront, along with the constant changes and the uncertainty it brings, I thought back to an event that happened a few years ago.
One minute, I was drinking my coffee and walking the few blocks to get back to my car. The next, my path was blocked by a crime scene — police tape, cruisers, and officers everywhere.
I had parked at a friend’s place the night before and was now coming to get my car to start the drive home from Toronto.
Only now, the only exit from the parking lot I was in was through the crime scene — and there was absolutely no chance of that (likely for many hours, the officers informed me).
Plans Fall Apart
I was powerless.
All the things I was supposed to do that afternoon floated around in my head — errands, work, the organization my schedule desperately needed before the start of another week.
But as I rounded the corner toward my friend’s house, the severity of the incident became clearer.
Cars parked on the street were marked with bullet holes or had smashed windows. Even some windows in the buildings across the street had been hit by flying bullets and were completely shattered. Number markers lined the street, and I had to wait to be escorted into my friend’s place by an officer, who first took down all my information.
We were told that it could take up to 12 hours before the tape would come down and I’d be able to get my car out, so we settled in for a longer-than-expected visit.
Upon learning this, I had a choice to make.
Was I going to let this twist ruin my day, even though there was nothing I could do about it?
The me from a few years ago probably would have done exactly that. She would have looked at this as a problem, rather than an opportunity. She would have sat there in her car, ruminating and feeling sorry for herself, wondering what to do next. She would have been angry and disappointed that things hadn’t gone her way.
At that time, I was in a very different place — both in my life and in my head.
Luckily, I’ve since worked to escape that way of thinking, and that way of being.
Change of Mindset
Of course, I still falter a bit today when my plans get derailed. I don’t need to look any further than the current pandemic to see that.
But thinking back on this event, I realized that it’s the little moments that prepare us for the bigger challenges ahead. Being unable to access my car unexpectedly certainly doesn’t compare to being laid off suddenly or being ordered to stay home in a state of lockdown, but it still required acceptance of something that was out of my control in that moment.
It’s a process. Being flexible and accepting of challenges and surprises as they arise takes constant practice. But little by little, you learn to handle unexpected events with a little more grace.
In this situation, my friend and I were able to turn an obstacle into a positive: a chance to sit down together and really catch up. We drank coffee and chatted away as she made a delicious breakfast. Then we chatted more over breakfast. Then we made tea and chatted over that.
Even though I was there for almost 5 hours, we never ran out of things to say and stories to tell — especially travel tales and adventures.
I learned new things about her job that I’d never realized before. I was fascinated by all the research and analysis she gets to do about the world and the countries she visits for work. And I got to fill her in on what I was up to and how things were going in my life.
A Surprise Gift
Later that day, when we learned more about what had happened on her street, we both realized how lucky we were to be safe.
Three people had been shot when a house party got a bit too large. Though no one was killed, the damage that was done and the proximity of the incident was chilling enough.
We said goodbye many hours later, and I got into my car feeling extra grateful for that special, unexpected time I’d got to spend with an old friend.
What had started out as an annoyance that morning had turned into a gift.
I think this is often the case—if we’re able to see it.