If you asked 21-year-old you, what 41-year-old you would be like – what would you have said?
I’m sitting here wracking my brain trying to remember what it was like to think like a 21-year-old. What was I doing? What was I dreaming about? The answer on both counts was probably: nothing much. I wasn’t especially motivated by “the future.” Thinking back about how I spent my time it seemed to be about immediate gratification versus carefully plotting or planning anything. More grasshopper, less ant.
Now that 42 is taunting me from 2 weeks in the future, I assess myself as doing more preparatory scheming than I did at 21. More ant, less grasshopper. But there are days when I wish I could re-learn to be impulsive. Oxymoron? Sometimes it feels like I think way too much about things before I make them happen.
Of course there are dangers to being impulsive. Rangers often find themselves rescuing inexperienced hikers from high elevations because they weren’t prepared with proper clothing, food, water or knowledge. That’s when impulsive decisions are stupid. Would I have ever done that – climbed to some high elevation without any consideration of the weather or anything else? Probably not.
It seems that my impulses are still guided by knowledge, however small. Or maybe by some assessment of the situation that calculates probable success; a calculation that happens so fast I’m not even aware of it. Maybe I’ve looked at this whole impulse thing wrong. Maybe what I’m really prattling about is spontaneity?
1. acting or done without forethought.
synonyms: impetuous, spontaneous, hasty, passionate, emotional, uninhibited;
performed or occurring as a result of a sudden inner impulse or inclination and without premeditation or external stimulus.
synonyms: unplanned, unpremeditated, unrehearsed, impulsive, impetuous, unstudied, impromptu, spur-of-the-moment, extempore, extemporaneous;
(of a person) having an open, natural, and uninhibited manner.
synonyms: natural, uninhibited, relaxed, unselfconscious, unaffected, open, genuine, easy, free and easy;
Am I splitting hairs here? Does being impulsive seem like it can be more reckless than being spontaneous? Maybe not. Does it matter what it’s called if the desired outcome is the same? And that desired outcome is more heart-following, less hemming and hawing over whether it’s a good idea or not. Besides, no matter what it’s called it is done with the same amount of acquired knowledge.
How often does some inspiration come to you and in that immediate flash you’re excited by it! … only to talk yourself back down off the ledge and to a list of reasons why you should slow down? Maybe divine inspiration, maybe spontaneity is your real voice? Maybe that other voice that muscles in with its reasons why not is an asshole. Or maybe the voice of reason is the one that prolongs your life? Maybe there is a balance between the two? Maybe you learn that balance with age.
Maybe I’ve finally reached old enough to know better.
Better? Maybe. Maybe not.