The Impulse Story

Thought of the day: Life moves fast. I was reading in a café patio the other day, when a childish giggle caught my attention; I looked over across a few tables to find a little girl with her dad playing a game and eating lunch together. She caught my eye and smiled; I waved, and continued my book, no longer curious of the giggle I continued to hear now and then. A few minutes later, I noticed an absence of childish laughter, only to find two college students sitting where the Little had just been minutes ago. It was like she had vanished, and there in her place were two completely separate stories, living their lives.

It just amazes me how fast everything in life moves—how quickly decisions are made, actions executed, thoughts created—and all of it is constantly happening to and around us all the time. Sometimes I feel as if I blink at nine in the morning, and suddenly it’s four in the afternoon. I’m sure everyone has felt time slip away at one point or another, but to think that so many lives have progressed in the blink of an eye, that so many new experiences and interactions have taken place, is mind boggling to me.

With the fast passing of time, there is something reflective in our own fast-paced behavior. Because time moves incredibly fast, sometimes it feels like there’s no opportunity to really think about a situation. Intentionally or not, we all try to constantly think about “what’s next”: whether to grab coffee before class or be on time, whether to study in the library or at home, or whether class is worth attending in the first place—all of these miniscule decisions that make up the productivity of our day. But on occasion, it’s frustrating not having enough time to consider whether to do this or that, by weighing the risk factors of all possible scenarios, and predicting how each outcome will affect the next.

Without the chance for contemplation, we are led to acting on impulse without thinking through the consequences, whether good, bad, or both. I think typically it’s much less practical to approach decisions this way, although some of the best memories I have came from the choices least analyzed. Diving into life can be intimidating, but how enjoyable can life be if we attempt to plan every minute of it? I think secretly we all live for the spontaneous moments, the choices and opportunities we don’t expect to encounter, because the idea of not knowing is enticing: the concept of no plans, no decisions, and just letting life do its thing. It’s thrilling. Everyone needs that surprise now and again, the chance to take a risk without knowing where it will go.

I’ve heard so many stories of lives completely transformed because of spontaneity, when the chance presented itself. In my mother’s story, spontaneity hit in an airport during her arrival home from college. As she was leaving, four lit-up yellow letters, of a word that will catch any girl’s attention, caught the corner of her eye. It spelled “SALE.” It was advertising a world-round plane ticket, for a price she knew would never come again. A minute later, she was walking out of the airport with a world-round plane ticket that changed her life.

She ended up falling in love with Italy when she got there, and on another bold whim moved there in Europe a year later. She didn’t think; she dived right into life without hesitation. She ran out of money a little too soon after she moved, got the first job she could find, a gig at a radio station, and through it, was led to her first fiancé. (Had she stayed with him, I would be writing for an Italian college blog right now.) And finally, she moved back to the states because my grandmother became ill.

In some of the best years of her life, experiencing so many parts of the world, so many cultures, tastes, people, traditions, and a great love, came from an impulsive decision to act instead of think, and step out instead of stay put.

Maybe your spontaneous moment won’t happen in an airport or lead to you living in a different country, but all the same, it could lead to something spectacular. So I’ll leave you with this: Don’t pass on spontaneity, because you don’t know when chance is next going to make an appearance. Playing it safe will only result in keeping you in the same comfort zone, around the same people, living through the same motions. Life was meant to be impulsive. So the next time the opportunity comes around and you’re at the crossroads of thinking or doing something potentially awesome or stupid, or both, do what you normally wouldn’t do and see what happens. I hope to hear the story someday.