always in transition
Over the Thanksgiving break, Miss G and I drove down to Albuquerque to check out the UNM campus. Miss G, after years of talking about going to college back in our hometown, finds herself unexpectedly unhappy there. At UNM, they have an ASL program there that she previously dismissed, and is now reconsidering.
The campus, like the city, is adorable and has a good feel. We drove around campus, cruised through some cute backroads to check out impossibly picturesque adobe houses with towering, tangled prickly pears peeking over coyote fences. And on the way back, Miss G read aloud from Jurassic Park.
Everyone’s seen the movie, but the book goes deeper (as books do) into the underlying themes of chaos mathematics. We expect everything to develop predictable patterns. But real life is unpredictable, like the weather. There are too many variables that themselves have too many variables, the combination of which renders prediction impossible.
Underlying that is the fact that change— seemingly random, course-altering, soul-shaking change— is an inherent part of life, as mathematician/chaotician Ian Malcolm (aka everyone’s favorite, the Jeff Goldblum character) explains:
‘ “[…] we have soothed ourselves into imagining sudden change as something that happens outside the normal order of things. An accident, like a car crash. Or beyond our control, like a fatal illness. We do not conceive of sudden, radical, irrational change as built into the very fabric of existence. Yet it is. And chaos theory teaches us,” Malcolm said, “that straight linearity, which we have come to take for granted in everything from physics to fiction, simply does not exist. Linearity is an artificial way of viewing the world. Real life isn’t a series of interconnected events occurring one after another like beads strung on a necklace. Life is actually a series of encounters in which one event may change those that follow in a wholly unpredictable, even devastating way.” ‘
Miss G is learning that now, that you can’t predict your happiness with any life plan, no matter how well-thought-out and seemingly practical.
My own life has certainly been defined by the unexpected, but I always thought that was my own fault—that I made bad decisions, that fluke things happened to only me, that better planning would lead to more stability. And in the last couple years, I’ve felt justified in this assumption, as our lives have calmed down tremendously compared to our Las Vegas life. Dan and I have both found reasonable jobs with reasonable pay and our life together has taken on a more predictable quality.
Within that relative calm, our thoughts have turned toward our future, and we’ve crafted a plan that sounds perfect for us: move to Albuquerque, which has the just-right combination of trees + four seasons for me, desert + mountains for Dan, airport for flying kids in & out, and an affordable cost of living. We’ll buy a house with a casita out back, set up the casita on AirBNB to kickstart some passive income, Dan will work on his sculptures and, once his business becomes viable, I’ll quit my job to paint and write full-time. Once we’re working for ourselves, we can travel more. We’ll buy a conversion van, spend weeks at a time exploring new turf. We’re still close to my family in Denver. Without traditional work schedules, we can snowbird often to Hawaii to visit Dan’s folks. A life that sounds amazing and— best of all— completely possible.
Then a couple months ago, we found out that Dan’s dad has been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. I’m at a loss as to how we can reconcile the very new, very real possibility of moving to Hawaii to be closer to his folks with the rest of the future we want to build. I’m mourning the loss of an imagined someday I was so attached to, had envisioned so clearly that it practically felt sentient.
So although I was happy for holiday road trip with Miss G, visiting Albuquerque was hard. I don’t know if that’s the direction we’re headed anymore, and I’m sulky about reverting back to uncertainty over what lies ahead. Ian Malcolm’s quote haunted me the whole drive home.
But as recovery, we had Gilmore Girls waiting for us.
Miss G & I have a long-standing love for Gilmore Girls. I mean, why wouldn’t we. It’s a show about a single mom and her daughter, their life in a small town together, their friendship and mutual respect for each other within a still-definitive parent-child dynamic, and the tribe that supports and loves them.
Sounds kinda familiar.
Sure, the show lost steam toward the end of its run (as most do) and sure, sometimes its quirkiness needle hovered closer to unwatchable than it did charming. But still. A brand-new, four-episode arc of an old favorite. Day after Thanksgiving. Dan’s going out climbing. Miss G’s feeling a little lost. I’m feeling a little down. But the two of us hanging out, just being together and finding comfort in that— that’s the one constant we can both count on. Mother and daughter watching a show about a mother and daughter. We armed ourselves with nachos and prepared to enjoy a light-hearted romp through a reunion with some much-missed, much-beloved characters.
And then spent the next 4.5 hours crying. Followed by another hour & a half of crying the following day because we couldn’t handle all four episodes in a single day after all.
The reunion show starts up 10 years after the season ends, so teenage daughter is now adult daughter. And she and her mother are both going through these massive internal upheavals. What do they want out of life? What if this is the wrong path? How does anyone find the right path? And they’re also working their way through their grief over losing their father/grandfather, which only highlights the brevity of life, the preciousness of each day.
Someone needs to remind Netflix that TV is supposed to be an escape from real life.
We were hit hard, both of us finding way too much in common with fictional characters. Miss G already feels uncertain about college and is planning to take next semester off. She’s headed out to Hawaii herself to take over a guest room at Casa In-Laws for a few months. And I find myself again in flux over the fact that I don’t have a crystal ball, am battling my usual reluctance to let life happen as it’s meant to.
But the only reason New Mexico and Gilmore Girls and Jurassic Park all hit me totally wrong, and all at once, is because of my preconceptions about how life is supposed to be.
I keep waiting for life to settle down. Like there is a place I’ll live or a job I’ll land or a birthday I’ll celebrate where, upon arrival, I’ll look around and say “Yep. Yep. This is exactly right. I’ve finally cracked this whole adulthood thing. No more massive upheavals needed.”
And I cannot believe it’s taking me my entire adult life to realize that life never settles down.
There’s a famous line from a John Lennon song: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” and an equally famous quote from Woody Allen: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” And I think somewhere between those two quotes lies the truth.
Because we can make plans all we want. Making plans is good. Life without intention is dull and drifting. But we need to look ahead without getting too fixated— need to leave room for the inevitable, unpredictable elements of uncertainty that will absolutely manifest. All the while trusting that if (when) your best-laid plans do “gang aft agley,” the provisions you need for your new journey will be there, waiting.
No matter how much we all love to deny it, the state of being alive is one of full-time transition.
So make plans. And make them with strong intention. Just don’t get too attached.