When I left my community college behind, I wrote a farewell letter in the school newspaper. I had joined the paper two years prior in a wave of confidence and curiosity...a moment of spontaneity. And after those years, I tried to write from the heart, to give a proper goodbye to a moment in my life that had not only been beneficial but had single-handedly shaped the path of my personal growth.
As I typed this letter, I found myself entirely self-aware. I was discovering something about myself I’d never realized. Though I had always seen myself as a nervous, type-A person, I was writing about all of the spontaneous decisions I’d made that brought me to writing that letter. I’d committed to a state school, backed out at the last second to follow the community college route, and joined the paper in a moment of confusion and need for direction. I’d cut my hair, I’d died it. With little warning, I’d cut out friendships that were dragging me down. And I was realizing those big decisions, the ones that truly altered something about myself, were the ones that had brought me the most joy.
Another two years have passed, and I unearthed that letter in a Facebook memory. To my surprise, nothing has changed. I continue to live my life with a spontaneous outlook. Sure, I don’t just wing everything. I still meticulously plan my schoolwork routines and large responsibilities, but I make sure in the moments I need it most, I give myself the freedom to do what I feel. This has resulted in countless afternoons spent hiding out in Strand Bookstore and even my departure from NYC. It’s the reason I’m still sitting cozy in my home city of Chicago. The bug to leave hasn’t hit me yet. So I’ll ride that feeling until I’m itching to get out.
Most recently, I spontaneously quit an internship that wasn’t meshing properly with my happiness or my health. Shortly after, I was hired for a fellowship at Newsweek, a role that will fit my schedule and my need for freedom in my routine. It’s an opportunity I would never have found or pursued if I was still spending my time in another role.
Those moments where life so unpredictably fits together like a puzzle that make me confident in the decisions I make. It’s kind of scary to say I don’t think much about my decisions. That isn’t the full truth. There are things I fret over and things that require deep thought. But I find my spontaneous decisions, the ones in which I just let life take over, are the ones that leave me fulfilled and proud.
My favorite days are the ones I wake up and explore with no requirements. This can be in my own city, or in a new place. A day with no itinerary, no travel plan, and no set times is my perfect day.
I did recently in Chicago and ended up finding this sweet little doughnut shop in the photo. I then made my way over to Millenium Park to read in the grass, only to be surprised by an orchestral dress rehearsal at the pavilion. I read my new library book in the sun while listening to the music, feeling free and blessed to be on my own schedule.
I’m not sure when I started taking these days for myself and making life-changing decisions in such a way. But I’m happy I did. The days I can pull off a full adventure, I feel capable and in control, feelings that are sometimes lacking with my unpredictable mental health. The momentary decisions are reviving and energizing in a way I haven’t been able to match.
It’s this same mindset that gets me through my toughest days. I simply allow myself to live in the moment, never looking beyond the hour. It’s a quick anxiety killer: focusing on one thing and one moment. Whether it’s to drink a few sips of water or to go get groceries, keeping one thing on my itinerary at a time is healing and inspiring.
If you struggle with hard days, try it. It’s the advice I give everyone, especially those without mental health struggles. It’s a grounding practice for any type of person, one that allows you to take full, conscious control over not only the moment but the moments ahead of you.
And as you're taking things step by step, be conscious of what's benefitting you. You may end up leaving hobbies behind, or picking up new ones. Lead with what you feel, and you never know what you may discover.
Go on! Be spontaneous!