Thursday, December 26, 2013

Working For The Shafeekend

I've read a number of times that half the pleasure one gains from a vacation comes from the planning of it. You're giving yourself something to look forward to, something positive to think about. And the beauty of it is this part of the vacation costs you nothing. You can immerse yourself in the not too distant future, imaging all the wonderful possibilities, all the ways that your life is soon going to become more interesting or exciting, if only for a time.

I must have this knowledge embedded in my DNA, because ever since I was a child I've been a pretty serious planner. Back then it was my Saturday morning cartoon schedule and my days at Disney World. Later it became complicated video games and making hangouts with friends happen with a limited number of cars and ever increasing number of clics. Nowadays, filling my calendar is a literally a full time job. It's what I actually do for a living: scheduling and maintaining the calendar of a busy executive, all the while continuing my own perpetual planning cycle.

I used to consider myself a present hedonist, unable to find any pleasure outside of the moment, but I now realize that the delayed gratification of scheduling has become a much more powerful drug for me. You can think of it as the ultimate game - filling every day of a calendar with something interesting or exciting. Hell, even this blog started as a year-long countdown to the day when I could end my self-imposed exile from video games.

I'm surprised I didn't come to this realization sooner. And now that I've become aware of it, I'm trying to decide how much of a good thing or a bad thing it is. It's certainly got its fair share of pros and cons. On the plus side, friends that are normally terrible about staying in touch remain in steady contact with me thanks to steady pings. In a writing workshop I took this year, I wound up volunteering to put together a schedule for everyone when the professor showed a casual indifference towards the idea. Everyone seemed grateful, though I imagine some may have initially thought of me as a bit of an overachiever, or a brown-noser. But by the semester's end, after seeing all the non-class related invitations and events with my name attached to them, I'm sure they all knew the truth. I had to do it. I'm a planning shark. Without a clear path forward, I'm sure I'll die.

That brings us to the cons. The planning never stops. At every event I've planned, while I'm with the people I care about, who've given me the kindness of their time, I can't help but ask for more. At the Thanksgiving dinner I hosted, I talk about my upcoming holiday party. At my holiday party I mention my big birthday bash. And at my soon to arrive big birthday bash, I'm sure I'll be scrambling to see what sort of Super Bowl plans everyone has (I don't enjoy football so much, but it'll just be so nice to see people again). It's only during game nights - when I get to devote all my time to plotting and strategizing my next move that I'm truly in the moment.

I'm sure a lot of this has to do with having been single for most of my life. You can't possibly feel left out or lonely when you've got something planned for every single night of the week. I don't even have time for a girlfriend! I'm simply dying to tell someone, someday. And good lord is it hard being a type A type of guy dating in New York City. You could not throw something more frustrating into a dedicated planner's life than the inevitable chaos of dating.

I like to tell people about the time my mother tried to throw me a surprise party. The punchline to the story is that when she reached out to my friends, they informed her that I'd already begun planning a much more elaborate event weeks before she had. Here's the thing though: I'd love it if a surprise party was thrown for me. The thing is, you're not really allowed to say that, right? How can you? By wishing this thing into existence, you've already announced your anticipation for it. It's like asking a magician to show you a trick, just after consulting a book debunking everything he knows. "I'd love to be amazed," you'd say, "but just so you know, I've done my research."

So instead of blindly hoping for a surprise party, I've gone in the opposite direction. As my birthday approaches every year, I plan out what's become coined "The Shafeekend" - a full three days/nights of activities that a varying number of my friends are invited to. And it's better than anything anyone else would have put together anyway. Because why leave to chance what you can just prepare for now?

All I need now is for everyone else to set aside as much time for me as I am.

-Matt

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