Monday, October 17, 2011

Get Fresh

During graduate school, I worked part-time at the Council on Aging in Athens, GA as an ombudsman. It didn't pay well, but I liked the job, visiting nursing homes and personal care homes protecting patients' rights, educating the employees, and investigating complaints made to the State.

A woman named Sally held the full-time ombudsman position. She was considerably older than me, as I was in my mid-twenties and she in her late fifties. And a quirky bird she was, too. She drank hot tea at exactly 10a.m. every day. She ate egg salad for lunch, ritualistically. She began almost every sentence with, "Wellllllll." In essence, Sally was the most predictable, unchanging person I had ever met. She wasn't just set in her ways, she'd become stuck in them with super glue. Bending or budging were both out of the question.

On the one hand, I suppose, Sally knew what she liked and she saw no reason to add complication to a life that clicked like clockwork. Deviating from the minute-by-minute, behavior-by-behavior plan would require extra energy and effort.

BUT, on the other hand, Sally was afraid to drive in Atlanta, take an unfamiliar route, give anyone anything other than her well-rehearsed standard opinion, eat fish, drink milk, answer the phone if she wasn't expecting a call or go to bed after 10p.m. She was always sure she'd said the right thing. She was positive she wouldn't get lost. And for certain no prank callers or telemarketers would catch her off guard.

Her fear trapped her in a comfortable life of monotony.

It was a good lesson for me at a young impressionable age, having barely begun feeling like an adult. I was young enough and silly enough to make a personal vow that I would never forget or forgo the thrill of experiencing something new; of doing something for the very first time. Not like a relationship-jumper, always leaving each romance in search of another, or a serial job-hopper, flitting from one place of employment to another; it's decidedly not the same thing. Relationship jumping and job hopping are signs of insecurity and dissatisfaction. Those are people searching for something they're likely never going to find.

When I say "experience something new," I mean stepping outside of one's comfort zone:
  • Taking on a challenge, such as writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.
  • Starting a project, like building a picnic table for the back porch.
  • Taking up a new sport, perhaps kayaking.
  • Doing something that scares you, maybe riding a roller coaster.

Every day, do one thing new. If you decide you'll never do that thing again, at least you've gained the pulse-quickening sensation of getting fresh. Plus, you have an experience to add to your repertoire, another story to tell, a complexity added to your person, a broader scope of conversation topics. You'll be a more interesting and interested person.

The only way to lose is if you say "No" to the new.

What will you do new today?

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