17 December 2009


Isn’t it funny how life unfolds? How life is rarely the result of planned behavior? Come to think of it, life is just the result of a little bit of planning mixed with plenty of coincidences. If life were a mixed drink, planning would be the hardest and most alcoholic liquid, while coincidences and random episodes make up the most part. Does that mean that planning is the most potent factor in life, and coincidences and chaos theory only chases and dilutes it?

Perhaps. At least, given the metaphor, that would be a nice scenario. But no, most people seem to live their lives in an unplanned way, relying on fate and chance to blow them in the wind. And on the other hand, it seems that people who tend to plan their lives tend to do battle with very strong headwinds, that sometimes, the chaser seems to be the more potent of the two.

Sometimes, it seems that life has a life of its own, and it is sitting on its comfortable chair on the control panel, watching every one of us. It perhaps is having fun, seeing how people cope with unforeseen circumstances, bending their plans in order to accommodate the most recent change. Perhaps life is playing games with us. Life may be curious as to how we deal with good and bad episodes in our lives.

The thing is, not every event in our lives can be planned. Yes, to a certain degree, we can plan things. So we want to be a doctor. We try to excel early on, so we can have good grades in high school, in order to enter a good university. And in university, we strive to do best, so that we can be accepted to medical school. And hopefully, the medical school that we want is the school that accepts us.

So yes, to a certain degree, we can plan our lives. But not everything can be planned. We don’t plan to be friends with certain people and not with others. We don’t tell ourselves that we will plan to make friends with John Doe but not with Jane Doe. Being friends with others happen spontaneously, unplanned, unscripted.

The same thing with relationships. We do not tell ourselves that we have a schedule. We don’t say that we want to have a good paying job by 25, that we want to find “the one” by 28, get married by 30, and have 2 kids by 35. Life simply doesn’t work that way. Come to think of it, romantic relationships perhaps is one of the most challenging aspects of life, especially for people who want to plan their lives.

Why do I say that? Well, let me test my theory from the point of view of someone who doesn’t plan their life well first. If one is content with hanging around, if one is content with just having a roof to cover their heads, if one is content with not dreaming big, then sure, it may be easier to find someone and get to know them. After all, the playing field is the same for both, and there is more contact with one another.

Take the stereotypical American for example. The American that does not even own a passport. The American who is born and raised in, say, Buffalo. Western New York will be the playing field, and chances are, if one hasn’t gotten out of this area, the person will meet someone else who is more or less from the area as well. Where will they settle? Western New York of course, no questions asked. No need for major life changes.

On the other hand, if one has big dreams, then things like these get to be harder. The world is a big place. If the world is one’s oyster, then things get complicated. What if the other person has his or her own set of dreams as well? What if both dream big and the playing field is too small for the two of them? What if one gets a lucrative job offer in another part of the world? What if there is a lab in Vienna offering a very tempting position?

I remember my mom telling us kids that she quit her professional job in order to be with the family and be with my dad all the time. Given my father’s profession, the playing field was very large, in fact, the world was the playing field. It wasn’t a small area like Western New York or Metropolitan Manila. It was way larger than that. And it seemed that the best solution back then was for my mom to sacrifice her career and be a full-time homemaker.

This perhaps brings to the point the issue of constraints. Multiple constraints are in play, and not every constraint work with each other. Some constraints are working against other constraints. Thus, things always need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. So, if a pair of people who care for each other are faced with a decision, say, Vienna, certain things need to be evaluated. Is the person worthy enough to make one drop everything so that two lives can be aligned with each other? Or is it the case that one’s relationship with the other person is not serious enough that it would just be easier to drop things and call it quits?

Sometimes, I think that human life is inherently flawed. One wants to be successful in one’s career and also be successful in one’s relationships and social connections, but these things do not always go hand in hand. I know of successful professionals who are divorced, and their families ruined and split. I also know of successful professionals who seem to have forgotten that life also has a social aspect. It seems that life doesn’t have enough room to be successful in every possible aspect, that in a way, one must fail in one of these aspects since that is the normal thing to occur.

(Exorcist Stairs, from my DC Buildings Series)


  1. I also think it's hard to have it all, we define priorities along the way. I see some of my friends, studying in very competitive fields - but they still have no work experience and live at home. I see some of my friends having kids, and put their career aside.

    I'm quite happy with my life. I certainly didn't plan anything, I take one step at the time. I knew my priorities were to see the world and I didn't see myself staying in France and starting long studies here (actually when completed my 4 years degree in France, I was already living in Canada). "Family" (well, the two of us) is also my priority and as you may imagine, it requires a bit of bargaining on both sides.

  2. Zhu,

    I totally agree with what you said. Priorities are constantly defined as we go. And as I see it, some of my peers just have made different priorities than mine, and so there goes the various differences across the board. I am totally happy with my choices however, so I cannot complain.