Plan for “Plan B”

Image by Al Seeger — Pixabay

Planning is something most of us do. Some of us plan for college, a degree, a future career, the kind of person we may want to marry, the family we may want, the house we expect to live in, and the long healthy life we anticipate having.

But unfortunately, life doesn’t always go the way we planned. In fact, most of the time it doesn’t.

Even simple things like planning to take a walk or go for a run can be ruined by a cold rainy day.

We like to think we’re in control of our lives and our destiny. We definitely hold the helm of our own ship, but that doesn’t mean we can control the waves of the stormy sea ahead.

When things don’t go according to plan, there's a tendency to feel anxiety and depression about our inability to control our circumstances; and even develop a fear that nothing will ever go our way.

Disappointment can lead to discouragement; hopelessness, and for some, there is a temptation to simply give up and decide to quit making plans at all.

I’m an indie filmmaking hobbyist. A few years ago I made a series of short films with a large church youth group. Bear in mind that this youth group was comprised of unpaid, non-actors who had no knowledge of filmmaking. They were ordinary teenagers who agreed to participate thinking it would be fun, but they also had their own schedules comprised of school, sports, and family activities which made coordination almost impossible.

I was determined to make these short films, so I decided to pursue the project in spite of the obstacles.

It was a logistical nightmare. We would plan a shoot, and only half the cast and crew would show up. Some would never show up at all.

But rather than give up on my original plans, I came up with “Plan B”. In fact, the entire production was nothing but one “Plan B” after another. There was no other way to do it.

When someone didn’t show up for a shoot, they were either replaced, or we’d shoot only the parts we could with who we had, or we’d rewrite the script altogether.

The original plan was changed so many times that in many cases, the final product ended up being something completely different from what I had originally intended.

But the irony was, in the end, the final product was better than I had intended. It was actually better!

Life never works out the way we originally planned, but it does work out if we are willing to work past the disappointment of not seeing our original vision come to life. The idea that “Plan B” is the consolation prize is wrong. Often, “Plan B” is the Gold Medal!

I used to see life as a straight track where if we wanted to move forward, all we would have to do is look ahead and move our feet at a nice steady pace. Now I look at life as a track with bumps and ditches, curves and hurdles of varying shapes and sizes at random and unexpected times.

Image by Bernd Hildebrandt — Pixabay

I had a brother-in-law who was dying of cancer. He was a great example to me; patient, kind, and good to my sister. I loved and respected him. One day, he was sitting in the living room, in a wheelchair; hairless, weak, and bloated from constant chemotherapy and radiation.

He was asked, “How do you feel?” His answer was simply, “Normal”. The response was unexpected as he obviously looked miserable. Then he was asked, “How can you say ‘Normal’ after everything you’ve been through?” He responded with a smile, “I just wake up, evaluate how I feel that day, and redefine ‘Normal’.”

Sometimes “Plan B” isn’t just about tirelessly pursuing your original vision and fighting through all the obstacles to get there. Sometimes “Plan B” is accepting that your original vision is not going to happen, and then learning to embrace a completely new vision.

I had hoped that my brother-in-law would win in his battle with cancer. He didn’t, and I had to accept it. My little sister’s life would never be the same, and now she had to find her own “Plan B” to embrace. To one extent or another, we all did.

Accepting “Plan B” can be extremely difficult, especially when we loved “Plan A” so much.

At the end of 2019, I had plans to make my first feature-length indie film with a small, untrained cast and crew. These, again, were unprofessional volunteers, but I figured with my previous success, I could do anything. I wrote a 90-page script, planned shoots and locations, purchased low-budget film equipment, and planned for the first meeting with our cast and crew in March of 2020.

Obviously, March of 2020 had other plans for all of us. While most people were worried about politics and pandemics, I was bitter for a different reason. My first full-length feature film would never come to pass. Although my complaints may sound petty and selfish compared to other people’s lives that were affected at the time, it was something that really mattered to me. It was taken from me, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Time passed and the kids that were supposed to be in the cast grew up. I sold my film equipment and had to move on without seeing the fruition of my original vision. I was discouraged, angry, and frustrated.

However, during the same time period, I learned to produce music, and I produced my first music album. I learned about illustration and animation and started working on creating a YouTube cartoon and writing children’s books.

I had to give up my original vision, but I found new visions to take their place, and I realized that had it not been for the obstacle of COVID, I might never have discovered the new skills and opportunities that came to me.

Again, “Plan B” might not have been the original vision, but it certainly wasn’t the consolation prize either. Time will tell if it will be a Gold Medal, but for now, it’s enough to give me renewed hope.

Hope is the most important factor in all of this. Life is full of random hurdles and it will continue to be so. But if we can learn to accept this quickly, spend as little time being frustrated as possible, and move to accomplish what we can with what we have, we just might find greater joy than we ever imagined in all the “Plan B’s” that are out there for us.

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