Spontaneity Isn't All That Great

Two Fridays ago I was searching the Internet for something interesting to do on a Saturday night. I happened to come across an ad for Henry Rollins’ Spoken Word show down at 4th & B.

The show was on the following Wednesday, not that Saturday, but I thought, “”Hey, I hardly know anything about this guy’s music, but ‘Liar’ really cracks me up, so why don’t I check it out?”” So I called a friend, he agreed to go, we went, we laughed, it was a great show.

The following day at work I was slacking off and discussing the show with a co-worker who turned out to be a Black Flag/Rollins Band fan.

“”Why didn’t you go to the show?”” I asked him.

“”Ah, well I heard about it, but I thought it was later in the month, and since I hadn’t planned it out, I just gave up on going,”” was his response.

That’s when another co-worker chimed in and asked why planning was a prerequisite to going. His almost sheepish reply was “”Well, that’s just the way I am. I kinda like to plan things if I’m gonna do them ….””

This got me all fired up because that’s exactly how I am. I like to plan things. I like to know what’s going to happen ahead of time so I can be prepared, and I very rarely do things on the fly.

When I was younger, this was considered a positive trait. It signified maturity and forethought. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that more and more people value spontaneity. Somewhere between homeroom and my dorm room, my peers began equating “”planning”” with “”boring.”” All of the sudden, I wasn’t fun if I wasn’t spontaneous.

I reached the height of my spontaneity crisis during my second year at UCSD. I had a boyfriend who was forever exasperated by my anal-retentiveness. In a valiant attempt to increase my “”fun-ness,”” I desperately began trying to be less of a control freak.

If he unexpectedly wanted to ditch class and go surfing instead, I’d gnash my teeth but trudge along. I was also always on the lookout for new and interesting things to try just so he wouldn’t think I was unadventurous. Pretty soon I found myself constantly stressing out, asking “”How can I be spontaneous today?””

Eventually I realized the lameness of my endeavors. My efforts at being a fun, carefree, whimsical free spirit were causing me more anxiety than all my meticulous planning ever did. With my purpose and my will defeated, I resigned myself to being stuffy, boring and “”unfun.””

But now, three years later and supposedly wiser, I’ve come to realize the futility of fighting myself. Screw spontaneity! The next time it rains on your parade I’ll be the one with an umbrella, because I checked the weather forecast and you didn’t. I shouldn’t have to feel sheepish for planning my life down to the last minute detail, nor should any of my fellow control freaks.

There are times when I still wish I possessed that Charlize Theron-esque freedom of spirit. But it’s just not who I am. Spontaneity is fun, but when it’s forced, I end up making myself even more uncomfortable and other people notice my discomfort. The more I fight myself, the more I realize that there are some things I can never change. And I shouldn’t have to.

I should not have to feel guilty about something that is not necessarily a fault. I should not let others make me feel guilty about something that is not wrong. Everyone has something they wish they could change in themselves. But how many times do we stop and ask ourselves if the change is really necessary, or why we wish to change it in the first place?

I do see the value in being able to let loose every once in a while and go with the flow. I was, in truth, rather proud of myself for going to the Rollins show. Going to hear a musician whose work I’m unfamiliar with — on a night I usually don’t go out, no less — is about as spontaneous as I get these days. That and announcing, “”I will now be spontaneous! Ready? Here I come!””