Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. John Lennon wrote that. I thought of this line today while talking with George (not his real name). George is a young adult and has been a participant at TCS for a pretty long time. George is one of the most amazing individuals that I know. Inside a package of sensory-regulatory confusion and language challenges is a human soul that seeks beauty and connection. George loves the finer things in life: a luxury hotel (with his favorite fast food nearby), a night (imagined) at a Parisian nightclub, or a trip to Hollywood to explore a career in show business. You might say that George struggles to communicate, though I believe he almost always gets his ideas across, and they are often majestic in scope. (He recently wrote up a plan for a wonderful themed amusement park to replace one of Atlanta’s defunct museums. The ideas are fantastical, and just reading them produces immense pleasure.)
Anyway, I had a conversation, or rather series of conversations, with George today. He is just finishing up a stint as a member of the chorus in a high school musical production. It has been an incredible growth experience for him, and today it aroused in George a desire to talk about what comes next. We discussed various internship possibilities he might have, his preferences for how he spends his day at TCS, and his desire to get a new girlfriend. These conversations were, at times, difficult, since George sometimes struggles to pick the right words and phrasing. I used a storyboarding technique (drawing cartoon versions of actual events to help an individual organize thoughts and describe what was said and what was thought); we generated lists and wrote things on the board so we could refer back to them; I rephrased sentences and asked clarifying questions and went slowly. At times, I felt like we weren’t getting anywhere. But over the course of these conversations (about three, lasting a total of 90 minutes or so), we covered a lot of ground. I came to really understand what George was thinking about. I suspect that George picked up a few ideas about what was in my head. And for at least some of our time together, we were definitely having a dialogue around a shared idea (what some might call “being on the same page”).
At the end of our conversations, I wondered what we had accomplished. We hadn’t picked a new internship; we hadn’t changed his program very much; we didn’t figure out how to get a new girlfriend. We didn’t really get much of “life” done.
Or did we? Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. George and I were busy today. We discussed things, and we worked hard to understand each other. Those moments of connectedness, those “circles of communication”, those times when we both knew that we understood each other and could laugh together—I think those moments really do constitute life. George and I made plans. And we lived.