Plan B: Further Thoughts Along the Way

Colorado Small Stream Fishing

Secret water: small Colorado stream

I do not remember where I read it now. Too many words, quotes, advice, have passed into and out of me since then. Since high school. That’s when you read lots of inspirational quotes, you know—that and right before you graduate from college. Because you need it then, you need the encouragement. Big on dreams and goals and confidence, yet lacking experience and wisdom that only accumulates with time. And with mistakes. Your castles are in the air (as they should be, says Thoreau) yet as you work to put foundations under them, sometimes, contrary to Henry David, your work really is all lost. It has to be. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it was in vain. That’s up to you in the end. Kind of like Packard’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” books you read as a kid—but now, you can’t skip ahead to read all the different endings. Life doesn’t work out like children’s stories.

But one of the things I do remember reading my senior year of high school, is that you shouldn’t have a Plan B. It’s planning to fail if you do. If you can fall back, you will (people, after all, are an inherently lazy lot—see televisions, escalators, and any game played on a Wii). Yet shooting for the stars, aiming high, and all of those other niceties are all well and good until you have to pay gas and electric, car insurance and rent. Then, you get the inkling that you might just need something else; you just might need to entertain those thoughts of a Plan B.

And then, it’s not so much that you give up, but you give in…to the acceptance that you’re an adult and you’ll just have to figure out some way to do both what you need, and what you want (most often, this involves four hours of sleep per night). You still have dreams, after all, that hasn’t changed. It’s just—this isn’t a dreamer’s world.

So you might feel a failure when you end up on Plan B, and indeed you very well might have failed at a few things on the way there. Or more than a few in fact, but we’ll not go into that here. Another story for another time. You say now what you hated adults telling you, because come around to “another time,” you knew they’d forget.

Backcountry Cutthroat Trout

Backcountry cutthroat trout

Yet what those inspirational quotes didn’t tell you, what they didn’t dare, is that sometimes—sometimes—Plan Bs are actually better than what you hoped for in the first place. Because often they just find you, miles and miles away from where you first began (perhaps wandering aimlessly, while not yet being completely lost) — through what seemed at times to be a series of unfortunate events.

Sometimes the large, high lakes you’d planned, are windy and miserable, and much much colder than you want to be in late July. Sometimes you spook the only cruising trout you see all day and you forget to bring an apple — and you’re more than a little grumpy about both. Sometimes you wake up to realize that just because you can keep on, doesn’t mean you should.

Yet sometimes on the way home, on the hike back down, you remember that sound you heard on the way up. A sweet siren you somehow managed to tune out. But now, you think, now it wouldn’t hurt to give in a little bit. It wouldn’t hurt to try something new. Something unplanned.

And so you do.

Finding yourself in a much better place than you first expected…or even hoped.