As I write more and more about my childhood and teenage years, I am beginning to get a new impression of myself, perhaps one that others around me readily saw but I was blind to.
If you’d asked me at age 15 what kind of person I was, I would say that I was very sensible and a good kid. I didn’t misbehave and always respected authority. It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I knowingly started to do things I wasn’t supposed to.
But before I felt I had the revelation that I could just lie to my parents and do all the fun things I wanted, I still was a bit lacking in impulse control. I could get an idea that sounded really fun and before I thought it through at all I would be doing it. And I’d often get in trouble for it.
This impulsiveness resulted in me lying about where I was going and then getting in two car accidents (the first was the first link above, the second was this one. It resulted in me spending more time on the Internet than studying in university resulting in really poor grades. It resulted in my nearly losing my license because of the number of speeding tickets I got – and being pulled over 12 times in my 19th year.
In short, I was a good kid inside who got in to a fair bit of trouble by chasing fun without thinking about the consequences.
You’d think now, with the benefit of nearly 49 years of life experience I would now be saying “Thank God I learned to think through everything. Now I have a normal life and nothing bad happens.”
But it’s quite the opposite. I think that impulsiveness is an asset. Sure, I think a little bit about the major consequences to make sure I’m not figuratively or literally skydiving without a parachute, but I also deliberately don’t think about all of the consequences. And what happens as a result of this approach?
After meeting someone on the Internet in 1991, I invited her for a five day visit. It went so well at the end that impulsively I asked her to stay. I didn’t think at all about whether it was sensible, feasible, or even realistic. I was moved to ask and I did. She did and is still here today!
I get to live in a yurt in the woods for two years and spend four years as in a family with not one but two at-home parents. My mother in law and I talked about this idea one evening and the next day I was resigning from work. I had no specific idea about where we’d live, or how we’d support ourselves. A few weeks later we gave away nearly everything we owned except clothes, a few pots and pans, and a computer. But we not only figured it out, we thrived and had an experience that changed and defined our family forever.
One night in 2003 we joked with friends that we’d always said that if things get worse (read: more conservative) in the US we were going to move to Canada. They asked us what was stopping us. There wasn’t anything. The next day I sent out several resumes to companies in my field. I didn’t do any Google searches as to how to immigrate, whether it was possible, or how easy it would be to move. We just decided we would go. Three months later I had accepted a job and we moved in to an apartment in Toronto.
In late 2011 I had an idea that it might be fun to ride a bicycle for two with my 13 year old son to New York City, 900 kilometres away. Over the next few months we bought a bike and started planning. Friends would write and say “Hey, if you happen to be in our area stop by!” and though many of those friends were well out of the way of our route, we just changed the route. By the time we left the route was 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) long. I’d done shorter rides alone but never one this long, never one on a tandem bicycle, nor with a 13 year old along for the ride. We didn’t do a lot of training and in fact a week before we left we went on a training ride in which, after 60 kilometres, I had to abandon it due to heat exhaustion. Still, we resolved that we would figure out what we needed to along the way and left on July 1, 2012. On July 25th, after traveling through two Canadian provinces and six US states we arrived in New York City having had the trip of a lifetime.
After that trip we’ve taken several other trips, both long and short by bike and it’s one of my favourite ways to travel and one of the best ways to spend time together.
So in the end, I will say that “Just doing it” without thinking much and resolving to just figure out the details once I am in the middle of it has been a defining characteristic of my life. In the beginning it caused me trouble, but once I fully harnessed its power, it’s changed my life so much for the positive. I’m glad that my childhood and teenage years as a bit of a troublemaker have prepared me so well for a life like this.