Some days, I just feel like I have too much information in my head.
Throughout the day, the computer in my head is busy analyzing fresh observations and pairing it with pieces of old information stored in the back of my mind, endlessly calculating risk and making plans.
To add to the chaos, I seem to remember everyone I’ve ever seen – a completely useless skill which I would gladly lose if I could. Is there any way I could press reset and transition from The Working Mum Who Remembers Everything to The Woman Who Cheerfully Forgot?
That consultant guy in the video meeting? He went to my school 20 years ago but was a year younger and we never spoke. That woman in the shop I just left? She went to dance class with me in the 90’s and had cool black eyeliner paired with a black hoodie (now she was very ladylike and dressed in white.) That guy? Used to be a sports reporter (and I never watch sports.) That neighbour? He went to uni with me and was a friend’s friend, we say hi but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t remember.
What really gives me a headache, though, is all the information I have on what could go wrong. Evolutionarily speaking, I can understand the importance of facial recognition: I would have been great as a cavewoman recognising enemies who are trying to infiltrate our camp! But the habit of taking into consideration everything that can possibly go wrong can’t be good for a human being. It’s just too much! This is exactly the kind of the stuff we need heartless artificial intelligence for, this is not for humans! It’ll break the computer in your head if you let it go too far.
And so I made a conscious effort this summer to block those thoughts from my head. In the small yeses and nos of the day, I tried throwing caution to the wind, for once.
And you know what? I’m still alive and typing.
I took on the challenge and experimented against my initial reaction, my natural response. Here’s what I found!
Experiment 1: Riding a city bike spontaneously, i.e. without having brought a helmet (which, frankly, I didn’t forget to bring but left home intentionally.)
Result: I rode slowly.
Experiment 2: Joining the crowd and swimming in more or less polluted-looking sea water which was so thick and green that you couldn’t see through it (the other option was to not swim at all, which bummed me out last summer.)
Result: I split my toes open on an enormous underwater rock which I couldn’t see. But they healed.
Experiment 3: Kayaking in a dirty bay which looks lovely from afar (but not from up close) and is very popular amongst locals and tourists alike. They seemed to be having fun and I really wanted some kind of water activity, plus the location was the easiest for me. So I decided to overlook the fact that the water was disgusting.
Result: I tried to not get splashes on my bare legs and actually had a great time.
Experiment 4: While kayaking, taking some photos with my iPhone, against my better judgement!
Result: I was heard to mumble repeatedly, This is not a good idea, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that I had just done a backup… in any case, I managed to not drop the phone into the bay that day! The photos turned out very basic, disappointingly.
Experiment 5: Eating things that could easily have gone bad in warm summer weather, like gravlax, which I would normally avoid.
Result: Tasted good.
Saying yes to the things I would normally say no to led to an active summer with a different set of experiences. But I wasn’t happier than when I said no, nor was I less anxious. If anything, I felt a bit silly for ignoring my instincts.
If my brain tells me to wear a helmet, maybe I should just do it and not pretend to forget, just so I don’t have to carry it around. We are who we are and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m alert and present.