In elementary school, I was the kid who labeled all her folders with a labeling gun and knew which binder was for which class before she showed up on the first day. I made an unhealthy amount of lists: to-do lists, movies-to-watch lists, pro-con lists, homework lists. I was, to say the least, the opposite of an impulsive child.
Earlier this week, however, I jumped out of a plane.
I didn’t know I was going to jump out of a plane until about half an hour before we arrived at Skydive New England to pay, suit up and meet the short, stocky, half-asleep-looking man who I would be strapped to while descending 14,000 feet, Roberto.
Skydiving is on a list I made in 2007 that I posted to Facebook (probably straight from my MySpace account). I guess I’ve been hoping to go skydiving for the past six-or-so years, and I would have been planning on going for the next six or so years had my boyfriend not seen the list and made plans for us to just go do it. We both loved it.
Impulsivity is usually seen as a negative trait. To be sure, it’s not advantageous or sustainable as a lifestyle. In fact, The International Society for Research on Impulsivity defines it as “behavior without adequate thought; the tendency to act with less forethought than do most individuals of equal ability and knowledge.
The Society also says that it’s “implicated in a number of psychiatric disorders including mania, personality disorders, and substance use disorders.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
In certain moments, though, impulsivity can be the most positive and beneficial catalyst to acting. For example, momentary impulsivity can be freeing. It’s more like spontaneity — a decision made and immediately acted-upon. For me, it stops one of my other greatest tendencies that is similar to list making: over-thinking.
Part of the thrill of impulsively deciding to go skydiving was the adrenaline rush, uninhibited by the anticipation of planning. The adrenaline wiped away most feelings of fear or nervousness that would have brewed had I been given a day or three days to think about it and wait. Did I really want time to consider all that could go wrong with skydiving? Absolutely not.
I like to think I still would have gone even if given the chance to over-think everything, but I don’t know for certain. Skydiving has always been on my bucket list, but there are always things that get in the way — “it’s too expensive,” “I don’t know if now is the perfect time,” or “one day I’ll go.”
There is no guarantee that there ever will be a “perfect” time. The older we get, the more responsibilities and obstacles will stand in our way.
Positive impulsivity makes “one day” today. Without it, that “one day” when you’ll pick up painting again, try out for a club or get a tattoo — whatever it is you want to do — is always going to be in the future, and eventually it just won’t happen.
Was skydiving on a near-whim scary? Yes — I didn’t have any control, I hadn’t made a pro-con list. Heck, I hadn’t even told my parents. But it was eye-opening and exhilarating and beyond worth it.
At a time like now, the beginning of the semester, we all make lists. There are things we want to do this semester, by the end of this school year or at some point while we’re in college. But it always goes by so much faster than we expect. Taking advantage of the present sometimes means doing things today, on a whim, unrestrained.
Would I be happy if I were still the kid who labeled and planned everything before the first day of school even started? Of course. However I also think I might look at my bucket list when I’m 70 years old (or, in fact, graduating at the end of the year) and realize that I could only scratch off two things, and I’d wonder what I did with all the time I had while waiting for that “one day.”
Especially while we’re in our early twenties, it’s time to stop adding and start checking off.
Morgan Jones is a College senior from Colorado Springs, Colo. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or send her a tweet @morganjo_. “Nuggets of Wisdom” will appear every other Friday.
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