I could have an itinerary, but I don’t want to

People have been asking me what my year of reschooling will look like: how long I plan to spend in my old classrooms, where I plan to go during my travels, what I plan to do when I get to each location. I haven’t known what to say, and the question has begun to stress me out. Until now, I had been planning from a practical standpoint: I would spend a few days in each grade at my old schools from August to December, then travel from January to June with a pre-determined itinerary. This plan made sense — I could find a place to stay and make arrangements for the learning opportunities in each location, well in advance of my arrival. But making a schedule seemed arbitrary and limiting.

I have been basing these plans on what makes practical sense, or what I think I should do, rather than what I really want to do. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less sure of what it is that I want to do. I have so lost touch with my own intuition that making even the smallest decision becomes a cosmic crisis. Should I wear the black skirt or the jeans? Should I go jogging or lift weights? In line at Tartine Bakery, I nearly hyperventilate when faced with all my options — should I order the almond croissant or the chocolate? Or the bread pudding? My life is so hard!

A book I read recently recommended eliminating “should,” (guilt & obligation) from one’s vocabulary and replacing it with “could” (empowerment & choice). My main goal in reschooling myself is to get back in touch with what I want to do in any given moment, and do it — with total confidence in my actions. When I spent four days alone at a coastal hostel over the holidays, I experienced for the first time what it felt like to follow every impulse. When I wanted to eat, I ate. When I wanted to collage, or jog, or play the piano, I did that. I spent a full day on Wikipedia (nerd alert!) letting one thread of interest lead to the next. Looking up Napoleonic Code led me to legal systems and martial law, which led me to the Tiananmen Square protests, then Mao Zedong, the Cultural Revolution, and the relationship between China and Taiwan. Retaining all this information wasn’t as important as having the freedom to indulge my curiosity to its end.

Tonight I realized that in order to pursue my interests as they evolve, I want to leave my reschooling agenda almost completely open. I could feel satisfied with two days in my old kindergarten classroom but need three weeks at my high school. Opportunities for spontaneous travel could arise — an invitation to learn samba in Brazil, or Feng Shui in China — and I want the flexibility to take advantage of any one of them. I believe that by staying open to every opportunity and following my instincts, I’ll find whatever I’m looking for. This “plan to have no plan” will also, I hope, make my journey more exciting to read about, since readers will never know where I’ll end up next.

With you as my witness, I am committing right now to making Reschool Yourself “should”-free. If I use that dirty little s-word, please zap me with a cattle prod, firmly say, “COULD,” and ask me what it is that I want to do.

Comments (4)

  1. Lisa

    I’m curious what your could/should book was…

    Exciting adventure. Good luck with the process.

  2. mjdicker

    It’s a quick read called Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston. It motivated me to start chipping away at all the junk I’ve collected, which has already made me feel a whole lot more sane. The Goodwill donation truck is a beautiful and magical thing!

  3. Alicia

    I’m not the only one!!! Carter gives me crap all the time because I can never decide where or what to eat, where and how to spend my day, and which earrings to wear. I’ve actually grown accustomed to this problem and will spend the whole day beforehand thinking about it. However, if they’re out of what I want to eat or the weather doesn’t cooperate… Heaven, help me!

  4. Shu-Jon Mao

    Yes.. I agree… you should never use the word “should”. =) Just kidding.

    2 words I HATE more than any: “should” and “can’t”. Like you said, “should” is about obligation and rules that someone else made for us. “You SHOULD do this…”. The problem is, there is no “why”. Just a overall notion that we learned long ago from some unknown source usually for the benefit of that unknown source. These rules just stick and we don’t know why we are doing things. Dis-empowering.

    2nd word I hate most: “can’t”. As in, “I can’t go…”. We can do anything (as long as it is physically possible, of course”. Of course we can go, but then we’d have to give up something else. Better to say, “I could go, but I’d rather do something else”. By saying, “can’t”, we again disempower ourselves and don’t allow ourselves the power of choice.

    Hee hee… sorry to go off on tangents, but reading your thoughts on “Should” mirrors my own.

    Congrats and keep up the awesome journey.



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