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Ben Olson: Plans made, plans abandoned, but always a plan, sort of

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By BEN OLSON/for The Herald  —  My boy and I talked about a lot of different things while we were on the road. Hardly a day went by when one of us wouldn’t lead off with, “when I get back home, I’m gonna…”  It is as exhilarating for me to hatch a new plan today as it was when I was his age. A lot of life’s experiences have had the effect of tempering my plans- to scale back my ideas and to pick and choose goals that I can actually accomplish. It wasn’t always like that.

Ah youth…

At 24, I was 10 feet tall and bulletproof, and quite confident, as well. That combination led me to make some poor choices about how to invest my time and my money. If a person gained wisdom by learning from their mistakes, I had a lot of chances to become much wiser. When you’re young, though, sometimes reality can’t constrain your ambitions. Learning to kitesurf, scaling Mt Everest, becoming an emu trainer or starting an international tech company all seem doable because, well, you’re young. Before you’re married and have the obligations of raising a family, any one of a number schemes could be attempted because it never occurred to you that you could, or would, fail.

I listened to my son’s ideas about new careers, places he’d like to travel to and things he’d like to build. I bit my tongue at times, not wanting to rain on his parade. Some of these ideas would be pursued, some would never progress beyond the dreaming stage. When I was 24, I didn’t appreciate anyone telling me that my plans were whacky. Some things never change.

At my age, I like to tackle projects that have a tangible and foreseeable end. I’ve been very careful not to start a new business that would be the equivalent of “buying a job”. I’ve worked much of my adult life to get to this point where I have the time to pursue pet projects and take a road trip without a schedule, or for that matter, a plan.

It’s not always about the money

I thank my lucky stars that I chose to be a musician at a crossroads in my life. It paid the bills and put a little beer money in my pocket for the last 14 years. Being a musician in Oakridge is all about the joy of playing the songs and not so much about making money. I’ll accept that. Maybe things will be different in the future.

This lucrative and fulfilling job as a writer for the prestigious Highway 58 Herald has helped give me a sense of purpose. When I sit down at my laptop to craft another column, any semblance of a plan has been abandoned and I put myself in the moment, churning out thoughts that I hope will amuse or edify my readers, or, at least, get past my editor.  I’ve perhaps erred in the past by announcing my plans.

I let it slip that I was writing a musical about life in Eugene. That project is lurching forward, but a long way from being anything I’m ready to show to our local theater people. I’m going to build a couple tiny houses this winter. There’s always a bunch of new songs I’m working on. The next big plan will be to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the California state line to the Columbia River. I may have to do the hike in segments, but I think my old knees will let me walk the 430 miles before summer’s over. I guarantee that if I succeed in that plan, you’ll be hearing about it.

Ben Olson, musician and Oakridge Resident, with his standup bass Ben Olson photo


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