The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
– From Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
I don’t remember who made me read this book, or if anyone. It may have been one of my mom’s that I just picked up. For whatever reason, I read it in high school and only one line stuck with me nearly 25 years later… “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
I’ve quoted it more times than I care to remember, usually when things aren’t going well. The quote came to me again recently, which prompted me to do a little Wikipedia research. Once I read the article summarizing the story, the whole novel came back to me (isn’t the brain amazing?). The quote doesn’t actually belong to Steinbeck. He took it from Scottish poet Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse”, which read: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.” (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry.)
Do you understand why I use it so often? So many times in my life things have not gone as planned, as I’m sure is true with your life as well. Some experiences have been far better than anything I could have planned, others far worse. Sometimes though, the harder the climb, the better the view at the top.
When I moved to Tennessee over 23 years ago, I had dreams of singing in my brain. I was one of many who moved here to break into country music. It didn’t go far. You have to have talent, and the right connection/money, of which I had neither in excess.
Instead, I met a boy, fell in like, then fell in love. Got married. Worked. And dreamed another dream. This dream involved teaching. I got my first big break in the church. I was allowed to teach an all-girls elementary class. I was hooked. Yet, also stuck. How was I ever going to go to college? I couldn’t afford that. So, the dream became buried.
An off-chance comment made by a co-worker changed my thinking. She stated (without knowing my heart) that I should be a teacher, because I trained everyone so well at work. I was so inspired by her comment that I shared my dream with her. She encouraged me to go to college. Get a loan. Get a scholarship. Just do it. After long discussions with my very supportive huband, I did just that. Went to college. As all my friends from high school were finishing their education, mine was just beginning. Although it took me longer, I did achieve graduation. It was sweeter because I had more obstacles in my way. Full-time work, marriage, and a baby (the last year). The harder the climb, the more beautiful the view at the top.
My next dream was to teach. That whole summer I was on pins and needles because I HAD to get a job. I did, but it was not what I had planned. I wanted an elementary position down the road from my house. Instead, I worked at an inner-city middle school an hour away. Yet, the things I experienced there taught me well, and the friendships I made with my colleagues continue to this day, 15 years later. The harder the climb, the more beautiful the view at the top.
Now I’m older, and hopefully wiser, and dreams are more difficult to imagine. I’ve secretly dreamed of writing. Realities of life have been like tree branches smacking me across the face on the path I’ve been climbing. I have to decide if I’m going to cut them out of my way, go under, go around, or turn back. Each option is viable, but only one will result in failure: turning back. I cannot go back to what I was doing. I will never see the view if I don’t continue. The harder the climb, the more beautiful the view at the top.
So with each application I fill out, each interview I participate, I must decide if this plan is the one the Lord is directing or I am. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) Climbing a path while not knowing the way is at best an adventure, and at worst, a case for filing a missing person’s report! I will keep climbing, and you must too. We don’t know what beautiful view is waiting for us at the top.