I was on the tube on my lunch break one day recently, dashing a few stops down the line to maximise my time for running errands and also grabbing a bite to eat, when my mind began to wander away from the task at hand. “What if I just kept going?” I asked myself. “What would happen if I ignored my responsibilities for a few hours and continued to the end of the line?”
To be honest, I do that quite a lot when work is tough or if I’m feeling overwhelmed. When I hear “this train is for Stanmore,” my brain interjects with, “I’ve never been to Stanmore. Maybe I should just go?” Keep going to the end of the line and see what’s there. It might not be very interesting but it would at the very least be different and, when your routine is no longer the comfort blanket it once was, these little temptations can be strangely appealing. What if I got off the DLR at City Airport and spent the morning watching planes? What if I kept going to Stratford International and then got on a train to Margate? Without a plan… just keep going?
The opportunities for this are seemingly endless in London, but I have been to a few end-of-the-line stops before and they’re never as interesting as I hoped they might be. One time a few years back I had an actual legit reason to go to Morden – right at the bottom of the Tube map, seemingly as far away as Mordor but bizarrely only in zone 4 – and when I got there it was, well, ordinary. Without a plan, venturing out of central London is rarely as exciting as I think it’s going to be as I’m not a spontaneous person and so will inevitably wander around for no more than five minutes, then end up in the nearest coffee shop plotting my return to the safety of zone 1. So, if my brain suggests that I keep going, I usually only entertain the thought for a minute or so before going back to checking whether I’ve accidentally missed my stop.
But what if I turned it around? What if I took the advice “just keep going” and applied directly it to the stuff that was bothering me rather than to a fantasy escape plan? Just keep going with my day and use the time and energy I would have spent daydreaming to come up with a new plan instead? A plan that has direction and purpose.
At the end of the summer, I went to one of the Film4 screenings at Somerset House with a friend. The movie was Clueless and, to be honest, I’m still a lot more like Cher Horowitz at the start of the film than I really should be at the grand old age of 44. I may have got some aspects of my life sorted, but when it comes to my career I’m still totally clueless. So, to paraphrase everyone’s favourite ‘ditz with a credit card’, it’s time for another type of makeover. And while that’s in progress (kinda like a background software update), I’ll keep going.