The Best-Laid Plans / I Piani Migliori

Those who know me will agree that I am, if nothing else, the consummate planner. To me, planning is a comforting exercise that [when applied with my special brand of willpower] nearly always results in the realization of my dreams. I plan my chores with “to do” lists, I plan for work, and yes—I even plan for fun (See also the “36 at 36 list.”)

In defense of this seeming rigidity, I often remind people, “If you don’t plan for fun, how will you remind yourself to have it?!” (Not to worry, I’m working through my control issues.)

La mia insegnanta italiana, Jenny, chuckled during our first private tutoring session this evening as I revealed the self-made exam I took during the session break. Apparently, it is very common for female students to want to learn things perfectly before moving onto the next segment. She encouraged me by saying that it’s okay, and actually preferred, to push ahead and have faith that the missing parts will fill in with time and practice.

What a metaphor for life—and for il mio progetto in Civita. Even though I haven’t left yet, I’m beginning to soak up the Italian way.

For instance, though I have planned certain elements of my project, such as a scope of work, I haven’t actually made a plan for how to accomplish it day-to-day. In fact, I don’t believe that I should. I can’t explain it, but it feels right not to plan anything, and instead, simply arrive, experience and document. Scripting and editing can be done upon my return.

People say this about Italy, that one simply must go off-script. Normally, this would clash with my beliefs, yet perhaps in my scripted way, the time to be unscripted has arrived on schedule. For once, I don’t want to plan, and I don’t want to see the questions before the test. I feel like I’ve had a lock on things for far too long. Now is the time to enter into a situation where I am completely incapable of control in order to find the next stage of growth.

This is a weakness, my preference for a script. It affords me [too much] time to think, to weigh options, to formulate a well-considered response, to compose and refine…but life isn’t like that. Life is messy, and one’s mettle is actually best proven in moments where instinct rules. The more I find enrichment in such moments, even when they are frightening, the more sure I feel about heading down the path of an unscripted life.

Per me, that means many different things that come with one common consequence: living life as “other,” as a person apart, a thing not yet defined. I will likely not be a woman with a mortgage, a single-family home—or equity. I will not be a woman who raises young children and swells with pride as they become wonderful people. I will not be a corporate go-getter in pointy shoes, a skirt suit and acrylic nails. I will not wear a huge diamond ring or be able to quit work to go on yoga retreats because my husband brings home the bacon.

Invece, there will be many other things that I can and will do, and I’m finding out that those things matter more in my life. I can sit very comfortably alone at restaurant counters and relish hearing conversations that inspire me to think and write. I can travel the globe whenever I choose to discover new lands, new people and new food. I have love and adventure. I have loyal and loving friends. I am known as eccentric and warm-hearted. And ultimately, even in my scripted way, I am the one who will abandon what would have been an overly planned life.

When I think about Civita, an ancient city that was planned by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago, I see it as an overarching metaphor—and the perfect place to plan to be unscripted. Did the original city planners guess that it would still be occupied two and a half millennia later? I doubt they did. Instead, they set good bones and let it become itself over time, growing and shrinking, back and forth, over and through the original planning framework.

I think that’s true of life, too. It’s more important to set good values, establish quality infrastructure—education, friends, emotional and mental resources—and allow life to evolve organically throughout that framework. Let it ebb and flow, like a living city in the course of a day whose residents move and grow, attempt and fail, work and play, live and love.

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