The Joy of Plan B

It’s a bitch to be cornered so I try to avoid it.

I admire people who are cornered by illness or poverty who just put their heads down and barrel through it, enduring without complaint and emerging triumphant, maybe dead but triumphant. You’ve seen that happen. Been around dead people who had more courage becoming dead than you can imagine having as a living person.

But short of death or blocked-in poverty, it’s not stoicism we need. It’s a Plan B. It’s Plan B thinking. It’s always thinking how to avoid the corner, stay out of the corner, know where the door is and the stairway and the elevator.

A lot of people get stuck on their Plan A. They start Plan A and it goes nowhere. So they restart Plan A.  It still goes nowhere. Then they call for advice, hire experts, take special drugs, all in the pursuit of Plan A because now Plan A has become the Holy Grail. Without Plan A, there is just a vast moonscape. No trees, no flowers, no other roads. So, of course, if a person is stuck on Plan A, looking at the nothingness of the absence of Plan A is seriously anxiety-producing.

And people can be stuck in Plan A territory forever, first exhausting every possible means of accomplishing Plan A and then mourning its failure, recounting the times it almost seemed like it would all come together.

But not all people are stuck on Plan A. Some of them get it about needing a back-up plan. If Plan A doesn’t work out, what am I going to do next? Those people know about Plan B.

Of course, the whole notion of Plan B is a variation of egg distribution theory, as in ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket.’ I have a lot of eggs and I keep them in a lot of places but mostly in my head. It is a Plan B minefield in my head because I am always thinking about the what if’s. I am a walking contingency planning festival.

I admire really good Plan B thinkers like a guy who drops the fruitless effort to find yet another short-term college teaching job and decides to become a bus driver or someone who divorces after a long marriage and crafts a whole new identity as a single person, claiming “this is always how I thought I would live if I ended up on my own again.”

Plan B is all about the adaptation. Assuming one is still alive, there is the potential for adaptation, for a new goal to be formed and pursued. If I can drive, I can find a new road. The explosion of Plan A doesn’t leave me on a moonscape, it throws me into a map room with maps of continents and oceans and deserts hanging on racks from the ceiling. I just need to leaf through them and find the right map, the right map for now, for this next Plan B.

No one is cornered when they have a new map.


#32/100: 32nd in a series of 100 essays in 100 days