Go with the flow
Erin Thomassen | Monday, April 10, 2017
If you refuse to go with the flow, prepare yourself for a life full of annoying inconveniences instead of unexpected opportunities. I was reminded of this last Sunday, when I had just boarded a plane at O’Hare and was promptly informed that the first officer was sick and thus the entire plane had to deplane, wait two hours for another officer to be available, and reboard. This news was not well received by the majority of the plane. My neighbor cursed under his breath and shoved his tray table back to its full and upright position. Supermom let out a sigh as she bounced a baby on her hip and resignedly unfolded a stroller. Messy Bun demanded the Wi-Fi password, was refused it, and huffed off to Starbucks.
This news did not please me at first, either. I was going home for a two-day interview trip and was disappointed that I would have even less time with my family than already anticipated. But I pictured my dad simultaneously tying his shoes and driving with his knees, telling me that life is better when you go with the flow. So I found a decently cozy seat, commandeered nearby outlets, and prepped for a lesson I was to teach the next day.
As I spread out my laptop, note-taking binder and textbook, I realized it was easier for me to prep in the gate than on the plane. If I had gone straight home, I would have had a late dinner with my family. Travel exhaustion paired with a food coma would probably not lead to the best lesson planning. Thus I found myself thankful for the sick first officer, who forced me to lesson plan, instead of annoyed at the delay.
I spotted another human in the gate thoroughly enjoying her extended time in the airport. She was a toddler. She roamed around the pillars between gates and pushed on the trashcan to see if she could move it. She touched the nearby column and the trashcan at once. Which one was harder to push? Why was the trashcan colder to the touch? I, aspirational STEM teacher, fancied that she asked herself these questions as she explored her environment, a tactile learning master.
In reality, she was probably not asking herself explicit questions about mechanics and heat transfer. However, she was curiously exploring and possibly making observations about her environment. In this way, this toddler was entertaining herself during the delay through the practice of science. She was able to appreciate the gate because she wasn’t obsessed with making it on the plane.
The adults around her were not engaging in such exploration. They were scrolling through newsfeeds too fast to read anything and chowing down on airport Paninis. Even when they had time to do nothing at the airport, and thus notice what was around them, they filled their time with consumption — so much consumption that they weren’t able to appreciate what they were consuming. They did not pay attention to the Paninis because they were scrolling through information. They were not able to appreciate this information because they kept trying to get to the next information. They were caught in the cycle of always wanting to be somewhere else, doing something else. If they remain this way, they will never be content.
It’s OK to have an agenda. Google Calendar helps remind me of day-to-day commitments. At the same time, it is important to be open to a calendar change as a positive rather than a negative, a scenic route rather than a detour. It is important to be able to be in the present and go with the flow. Else you’ll die without having ever fully lived in the present.
Going with the flow is not only important in airports, but also in larger-impact situations. I had been planning on completing Notre Dame’s ACE program since last April when I accepted my early admission offer. However, recent family developments made me realize I had to go home instead. After a talk with understanding ACE directors, I began planning for a new post-grad life at home. Instead of spring being a carefree glide to graduation, it was soon filled with rushed trips home, a flurry of cover letters and days of missed class for interviews. Yet in the chaos and work was the discovery of amazing independent schools in the Boston area. I went from no options to a choice between too many amazing schools. I went with the flow of the unexpected and challenging situation and found blessings among the hardships.
So when life doesn’t accord with your daily, monthly, or lifelong Google Calendar, go with the flow. It will save you a lot of upstream swimming and will allow you to enjoy the ride.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.