Ah, 2020. A new decade. A time to be resolute. To look ahead and Google satellite your life. But what if you’re not wired that way? What if you’re more of a Google street view kinda person? Like when my wife got promoted and we moved from Manhattan to Toronto, I kinda just… went with it. Six months in, I’m staring at the CN Tower, with “Let’s go Raptors” stuck on loop in my head, thinking, “Ha, I really live here, guess this is what I'm doing now. OK, sure, why not, eh?”
I’m like a piece of driftwood, happy to go with the ebb and flow of my life, rather than carefully chart a course. When a relationship I thought was The One fell apart, I left my sunny homeland of Australia for the boisterous energy of New York City. Seems like a decision that should have required a lot of thought. It didn’t. The idea came to me one afternoon, and I responded with a, “Huh, sure, ok, let’s give it a go.” Setting a plan left no room for whatever life was going to throw at me, and since life had just backhanded me in the face, I went with it.
When I look around, I notice that there are many of us out there — driftwooders like me, mostly in their 20s or 30s, happy to live their lives and let the action happen around them, rather than the other way around.
Like Felicity Skampman, a 24-year-old art director from Toronto. “I’m not a long-term thinker,” she laughs. “I’m a short-term doer!” Skampman says she’s a big one for “letting life wash over me.” When it came to picking her university degree, for example, she went with what felt right at the time. “All my friends seemed to be thinking about where they’d end up 10, 20 years from when they would have finished their studies. I’m just not wired to think that way.”
I’ve spotted celebrity driftwooders, too. Like Ryan Reynolds, who has embraced his driftwooding ways. “Every time I've gotten myself into trouble,” he told GQ, “it's because I'm choosing a project based on a long-term career goal as opposed to something that speaks to me at the moment.”
Vancouver-based relationship psychologist Helen Calder says she’s seen a rise in this trait among her patients, where short-term assertiveness meets long-term passivity. She believes it’s a direct response to today’s I’ve-totally-got-my-life-together, heavily curated social media climate. “We see our friends hitting all these life milestones on social media and that fills us with a sense of ‘should.’ I ‘should’ be here or I ‘should’ be doing this or that,” says Calder. This can leave driftwooders with feelings of inadequacy and guilt.
But don’t confuse driftwooding with being indifferent or goalless — it’s just that we driftwooders tend to live in the present rather than try to figure out the future. “I don’t take a back seat to my life,” says Chloe Jamison, a 30-year-old financial analyst from Mississauga, ON. “I recently did an Escape the Room, where everyone thought I would be tepid because of my driftwooding. Thing is, when there is something immediately in front of me, I take control. I take charge. It’s only when bigger things come into play that I won’t. So, Escape the Room, fine. Escape my Life, no, I’ll take a backseat on that one.”
Like all personality types, driftwooding comes with its own unique sets of pros and cons. On the plus side, driftwooders aren’t ever really disappointed with where they end up in life, because they don’t prescribe an ideal scenario for themselves. They can emotionally pivot and are able to deal with change better than non-driftwood folk. “You thrive in most environments, embrace your circumstances, and roll with your luck or lack thereof,” says Calder. “If life was a stage, driftwooders would be the most apt improvisers around.”
But driftwooders need to check themselves for aloofness and apathy. “There’s a difference between allowing your life to go where it may and not caring about where you’re headed,” says Calder. The trick is to catch yourself if you find you’re resembling the shrug emoji. “Something as simple as journalling or keeping a budget plan can help give you a more zoomed-out look at your life,” Calder recommends.
That said, us driftwooders have a thing or two to teach the rest of the world. Namely: letting go. Like Demi Lovato, who admitted that after years of trying to regulate her life with no room for error, she embraced the art of release. “One of the reasons I was so unhappy for years was because I was trying to stay in control,” she told Seventeen Magazine.
If you, like Demi, want to replace rigid for relaxed, Calder recommends going out for the day with no plans. Or telling your friends you want to go away on a trip, see what they suggest, and then rolling with it.
So, as we collectively stare down the barrel of a new year, the pressure to make plans and resolutions breathing a heavy mist down our napes, remember that it’s okay to simply take life as it comes. Because when we drift, it means we're open to many paths, not just one… and who knows what serendipitous shore we might wash up on. Take it from this Aussie in Canada by way of New York: Sometimes having no plan is the only plan you need.