‘a ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for’ – William Shedd
Spontaneity. It was 1998. I was a senior in high school, and it was a school night. I was sleeping over my friends house though, and two other guys were staying over too. My host-friend suggests that because his mom is asleep (must have been 9 or 10pm), we should take her car and drive to Foxwoods Casino. We can have the car back before she wakes up, and even make it to school first thing in morning.
I was never spontaneous. I’d say I was nervous, shy, scared of the unknown, and therefore calculated and somewhat structured in my ways. When this journey to Connecticut from Concord, NH was brought up, I probably started asking, ‘well ok, how long does it take to get there? Do we all have enough money? How old do you have to be to enter a Casino…to gamble? What classes do we have in the morning, and what time do we have to be back…exactly? And that means we’ll have to leave Foxwoods to return at blah blah blah. I can see my friend smirking now…and telling me that none of that matters. We’re just going.
Somehow we actually did make it to Foxwoods and started gambling. When we were huddled around my friend at one of the tables as he was doing well, we noticed security guards in nice suits approaching. They split us up and asked us questions. Mostly about our age or birth dates. Then they told my friend to cash out on his winnings, and told us all to get lost. We got home in time to quietly push the car back into my friend’s garage, and sneak into his room as though we’d been there all night. His mom had to know. But she never showed it. We went to school on maybe a half hour of sleep. But the stories and excitement were enough to make that next day, one of the best days of my high school career. Today, as I did that day, I can reflect on the awesome feelings of freedom, bravery, risk, adrenaline, and a sense of brotherly love that this experience created for me.
I wish I figured out then that spontaneity was special. It was part of that experience. It was central to it, and key to the everlasting memory it solidified within me. I wasn’t at all self-aware then though. I probably couldn’t pronounce spontaneity. And even though I was easily influenced by others and did have fun doing crazy things in the following years, I never embraced the idea of improvising in my life. I needed a script.
A couple of weeks ago, I quickly grabbed a couple of snacks, some wipes, my new cheap and obnoxious mirror lens sunglasses, and Matilda, and hopped in the car without knowing where we were going. I know…you probably do this like every weekend. But I couldn’t think back to when I had last done it. Kind of made me sad. Anyway, I still live in Concord, NH. And what I love about my geographic location is that all within about one hour away…I can drive North to the White mountains, east to the ocean, or south to the city of Boston. All great options. Matilda asked where we were going. ‘I don’t know Til…we’re just going on an adventure…and we get to choose where we go.’ I told her that I was now leaning toward Portsmouth over on the coast, but then I remembered those fun books I used to read and I told her this is called ‘choose your own adventure…and you get to choose!’ She said she didn’t really want to go to Portsmouth, and wanted to go to Mother and Child, a pretty hip consignment shop in Amherst that her mom had brought her to. So that was it! We found a cool dress for her, played hide and seek in all the clothes, and upset one of the old employees who thought we were being too loud. It wasn’t Foxwoods. It was incredibly fun though. Matilda was able to choose it. And that morning, I never would have guessed that this experience would have been in my future.
I noticed a huge change within myself after having a child. Matilda has helped me learn so many great things…one of them being the ability to ’embrace spontaneity’. Children often live in the moment. Not reflecting on previous behaviors. Not planning out the steps to our future. Simply enjoying this moment. They make quick, thoughtless decisions based on passion, desire, love. They often don’t know the consequences of making the wrong choice, choosing the wrong person, wearing the miscalculated dress, or chomping on Nerds candy instead of an organic apple.
Don’t let fear get in the way of being spontaneous. Embrace the risk involved. Acknowledge an uncomfortable feeling, but let yourself be ok there…and remember how much you can learn there. About yourself and others. Go on more ‘choose your own adventures’, let your kid choose their own outfit and then splash in the puddles, jump on the bed with them, and eat lots more Nerds.
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