June 7th 2013
Story originally written and experienced: July 5th 2009
“Every once in a while I have an urge to do something completely backwards.”
I said to him as I grazed my hand along the metal railing peeking
over the water’s edge.
We were in downtown Chicago, unraveling from spectacular vacation, cruising down the Wabash Ave bridge, satisfied in silence,
But happiest in conversation.
Even if we didn’t agree.
“Backwards?” he asked me. “What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure exactly. I guess…I guess sometimes I just like to do things that don’t make much sense.”
He looked at me with a memorable face. Semi-confused with a half-smile, only because he didn’t think I was being serious.
Thing is I remember seeing a face just like this once. I was 11. And I was in this crushed velvet leotard in the midst of my early gymnastics days.
And the coach placed me and the other kiddies in a
“You can jump in the foam pit later. But not now. Cartwheels first.”
And I remember that at the precise stroke of her last sentence. I had
And was already airborne into the forbidden pit of fun.
“Olive! What are you doing?” She roared in front of the other children “Why did you do that?!”
“I’m sorry,” I told her in my meek voice and crushed velvet leotard, drowned in a sea of foam bliss, “Sometimes I like to do things that don’t make any sense.”
She looked down at me with a semi-confused face and a half-smile.
And I remember this exact memory playing through my head. When I told him this:
“Well. Let’s see…how can I explain it…”
I lifted my purse from my shoulder
And balanced it along the edge of the railing.
I watched his face turn from half-smile to worry. As I held it there with my hands. Then I said.
“What if I were to take my hands away? Or better yet. Take this whole damn bag. And just throw it over the edge?”
“What? Why would you do that?”
“I’m not sure. Just to do it I guess.”
“No real reason. I suppose just doing something that doesn’t make sense every once in a while makes me feel a little less automated.”
“Yeah. Automated. Like every day we’re living these awesome, successful, relatively eventful lives but all by some plan, and all by some structure and all by some some idea…that was never really created by us. But we willingly follow it.
And it’s a damn good thing we do follow it, or else this world would feel like complete chaos.
I don’t know.
Do you…do you think you’d have a job if you weren’t supposed to?
Find love quickly if it didn’t feel so mandatory?
Wear different clothes everyday if it weren’t socially acceptable?”
Hold yourself back if your employment, reputation or finances weren’t on the line?
“I don’t know. Maybe?”
“Maybe I would too.”
“Don’t throw your purse in the river, Olive.”
“I won’t. That would be a disaster. I’d have to buy a new everything! New phone. New wallet. New gum.”
…But can I tell you a secret?”
“I’d hate it for the inconvenience.
But I’d love it for the feeling.”
“Let’s keep walking.”
And so we did. We kept walking. For the rest of the evening. Into dinner plans. Past a few cocktails. And back to the hotel.
And once we got back to the hotel. He told me he was going to take a shower. And I said okay. And so I waited until I heard the bathroom door close shut. And then I grabbed the room key. And I went downstairs. And I walked into the gift shop.
And I bought the first thing I saw.
Which was this:
I didn’t need it. Didn’t necessarily want it. But what I did want was the pointless thrill. Just so when someone asked me why I bought it, I could say “No reason.”
Just so I didn’t have to have a reason for something.
Just one thing.
Only because it seems that these days, everything I do, and everything I say, and everything I decide is expected to be labeled with a reasoning. And maybe some things really do need a reason. And maybe some things…
But I label them anyway.
Twice with reasoning.
And once with truth.
Living a life that’s built around structure is a beautiful thing, a reliable thing, a dependable thing, a recommendable thing. And if you think about it, if you really really think about it. The way we live? And the decisions that we make? And the people that are in them? Are framed around success, love and expectation.
And the beauty about having reasons for things are admitting, owning and creating preferences, opinions and justifications.
The path you choose
The people you choose
The decisions you make
And the decisions you don’t make.
But every once in a while we find ourselves starving for excuses and reasonings for why we are the way we are. Do the things we do. Don’t do the things we don’t do. Only because we feel like we need them. And only because other people think we need them too. So they ask us “why”. And we have nothing to say. Either because we ran out of reasons,
Or we simply don’t need one.
For being a certain way. Or for doing a certain thing. Or possessing feelings that don’t make sense. Or having a bad day. Or even a great one.
And that’s perfectly okay.
Because we live in a world where we’re pre-programmed and automated to always have an answer to the question “why did you do that?.”Afraid to ever give the reason “I don’t know.” Because that answer might label us as
When in my opinion, not always having the answers? Means there’s still a journey lying ahead.
Evidence that not everything serves a purpose.
Or needs to serve a purpose.
And how okay that really is.
How spontaneity doesn’t need an explanation, and neither does weakness. How happiness is just allowed to happen and feelings are too.
And maybe if we didn’t find ourselves explaining ourselves to people. Or even to ourselves.
Every day. All the time.
Things would actually make a lot more damn sense.