The other night, I randomly decided that it would be a good idea to watch a horror movie. For some reason, I thought that everything would turn out okay even though I hadn't watched a horror movie in years exactly because nothing is ever okay after I watch a horror movie.
But on that night, for no particular reason, I felt like I could handle it.
Immediately after I turned off the TV, a feeling of apprehension welled up inside of me. I could feel my psyche organizing what I had just seen into a highlight reel that will be freely embellished by my own imagination and then called upon to torture me for the rest of my life. It will be dredged up over and over, turning innocuous everyday occurrences into terrifying threats against my survival. Every noise that is not immediately identifiable will make me think that there's something in my house that is trying to kill me.
I know that this is what will happen because it has happened before. In hindsight, there was absolutely no reason to believe that it would not happen. But for some unknown reason, I ignored a lifetime's worth of cautionary evidence and pranced merrily onward into the unavoidable consequences.
Blind optimism and impulsivity often cause me to ignore logic and instead make decisions based on a hopeful projection of what's going to happen next. It's like I forget everything I've ever learned about the things that generally don't end well when I do them. And then I'm somehow surprised when things don't happen the way I expected.
Take dancing, for example. Despite hours spent watching instructional YouTube videos, I still lack the ability to move my body in a way that does not resemble a structurally unsound robot.
But then I go somewhere where people are dancing. I join in and, at first, I just try to keep it simple.
But after a little while, I get tired of repeating the same dance moves. I start wanting to try something new. This is when that little bit of blind optimism creeps in and makes me believe, deep down in the very core of my being, that not only am I capable of shaking it like Beyoncé, but that is exactly what I should be doing.
But something about the move I've just attempted feels "off."
This is usually the point at which I am abruptly snapped out of my fantasy where I am graceful and sensual, into reality where my body is contorted into a vaguely gargoyle-like shape.
I am immediately filled with shame and regret.
I begin to wonder why I would ever assume that I was capable of making my body do what I had pictured it doing. My coordination is questionable even while performing simple tasks like walking or putting food in my mouth. In college, I took a dance class and at the end of the year, the only thing my teacher wrote on my evaluation was "Allie tries hard." Nothing I have ever done would indicate that I have the potential to dance like Beyoncé. But I didn't consider that.
Another thing that almost always ends in direct contrast to how I had imagined is singing while other people are present.
One time I went on a road trip with my college roommate, Julie. I really liked Julie and I desperately wanted her to like me back, but she was quite judgmental and there is a lot about me to judge, so our time together was usually just a series of tense moments in which I tried my hardest to escape judgment long enough to win Julie's approval.
We had just left town, the sun was setting, the windows were down, the radio was playing and I was suddenly overcome with the desire to be a part of a montage-worthy car-singing duet. In my head, it was the perfect opportunity to bond with Julie.
I decided it would be a good idea to just start singing enthusiastically in order to get the ball rolling on fulfilling this pointless fantasy of mine.
It soon became clear that Julie did not wish to participate in this potentially idyllic moment. My enthusiasm imploded, leaving behind a black hole of awkwardness and insecurity.
But I knew that if I stopped singing and just sat in silence, it would alert Julie to the fact that I was feeling awkward and insecure. I had to pretend that I was unaware of the awkwardness I'd caused. I had to keep singing.
I mumbled the rest of the song quietly, turning my head toward the window to give the illusion that the sudden reduction in volume was due to the sound waves being impeded by my head and not because I was embarrassed.
This discrepancy between the way I imagine things unfolding and how they actually happen is most dramatic when I overestimate my ability to perform a pointless feat of athleticism. I'll walk past a low-hanging branch and be struck with an irresistible desire to see if I can jump up and touch it with my face. I'll see something heavy lying on the ground and suddenly need to know if I can pick it up. There are absolutely no tangible benefits to doing these things, but the consequences are often significant.
As I'm lying there, crumpled and broken from my most recent attempt at meaningless success, I feel complete bewilderment at the motivation behind what I just did. There was no point. I'm sure that the decision was based on some scrap of reasoning, but in retrospect it seems that chaos and unbridled impulsivity just collided randomly to produce a totally unexplainable action with no benefit and all consequences.
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