'And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,' wrote Anais Nin. I know exactly what she means: stuffing your impluses down is not only unwise, it can be physically painful. We can all relate to this, I think. Stressful desk jobs can lead to heart attacks or mental problems. Pretending to laugh at unfunny remarks could activate a facial twitch (people who fake laughter are usually trying to endear themselves to others, but it won't work if your face spasms uncontrollably after every titter). And if you feel yourself starting to retch as you wander through the food halls and fluorescent thoroughfares of Chadstone Shopping Centre, you should probably just get out of there. No one likes a pile of floor vomit (not even the people willing to eat Food Hall curries).
"When one is pretending" Anais Nin continued, "the entire body revolts." Amen to that. Her advice is good, and sometimes appears in self-help books as the maxim "be true to yourself."
There are those among us who couldn't do otherwise if we tried. I am what Pablo Neruda called a woman 'on fire from within.' The impulse to break free did not arrive one day, as Nin describes: it has always been with me. I am Nin's glorious blossom. Fearless and anarchistic, I ignore reminders about 'consequences' and 'responsibility,' and do what I like. Ha ha! I kneel at the altar of the Snap Decision.
From my split-second whim to apply for my first writing job, which set my life's course, to my childhood bolt into the street to crush snails, with its humiliating anti-climax (a neighbourhood woman led me home by the ear, slime and shattered shells clinging to my sole), to the time I dumped a boy because he opened his mouth too wide and I saw his tonsil oodling and doodling, snap decisions have gotten me where I am today. My Waterloo! My Battle of Hastings! Fickleness, whimsy, and a jumpy reactivity to stimuli - especially the comments and actions of others - have shaped the person I am.
When I look around I feel fortunate. I think of my partner, home, work and hobbies, of the people I've loved and the adventures I've had, and I'm amazed. I'm amazed I ended up here. Thank you, snap decisions! I'm pretty happy, so that means it's working, right? Like a leaf travelling on the quick currents of a light stream, snap decisions have blasted me down a pretty path, tinkling and sprinkling and prancing and laughing, happy to be alive.
Of course it's not all Skittles and elves in boats. There is bad with every good. Snap decisions can create problems. Mostly the problems are with other people, and I'm not just talking about the vertigo induced in friends/family members as they tail me through the city, leaving stores because they're too dark or crossing the street to get away from someone who smells like Lynx Voodoo. Snap decisions are often made with a verbal snap too ("shove-over-butt-slit-I-can't-take-this-anymore") and are linked - at least some of the time - to a desire to guard my dignity, like the dragon in The Hobbit sitting on his piles of treasure.
This has earned me a nickname: the Snap Dragon.
Person 1: "Did Sandra really cancel lunch because you said her hand vein looked big?"
Person 2: "Yeah, she snapped at me. She's the Snap Dragon."
Fellow snappers: I'm happy to report that the rest of society is catching up. Since childhood (I was born in 1983) I've watched the world around me morph into a place where I feel comfortable. The digital age, a proliferation of consumer choices, and tolerant attitudes encouraged by the liberal media have conspired to create my kind of society: a land of mobility, constant change, quick thrills and no consequences. Australia in 2014 is an amusement park catered to the temperaments of the short-sighted and hot-blooded. You can hear it in the hollering of AFL fans, smell it in the combined odour of food hall outlets that barely meet health standards, feel it on your surfie schoolfriend's melanoma-peppered skin (our health system has his ass covered, and it's a good thing too: there's a mole the size of an eyeball down there), taste it in the five flavours of V Energy and see it in the terrified faces of children shoving each other on death-trap adventure playground equipment.
If that list turned your stomach, just remember: these things are nauseating individually, but collectively they are a symphony to freedom, a hymn to our robust institutions and democratic values. I avoid food halls, AFL games, former schoolfriends and playgrounds - I avoid them like the plague (can't get enough V Energy) - but the day somebody tries to close the Melbourne Central Curry Hut or gag the people letting off steam at the AFL is the day I sign an internet petition to put a stop to it (the digital age has made campaigning easy too).
Instead of curries I eat picnic luches at the Botanic Gardens, which exist because some long-sighted fellow set the land aside in anticipation of Melbourne's quick urbanisation. I feel free in that oasis in the middle of the city, even scaling trees and chasing wild birds at a risk to my own neck (and dignity) only. I skip and sing in the crowds of Degraves street during Sunday breakfast as my ipod shuffles a genre-and-epoch hopping mix of music through my earbuds. I listen in on the breakfast chat of workers going freelance or chasing startup funding. I watch them shovel food and would not want their figures, but love the fact that we live in a society where injesting 30,000 kilojoules in one meal is a valid choice, and there are acceptance campaigns to shame the fat-shamers. The asses of these Degraves street gourmands are covered if their flesh swells.
That's the great thing about being a snapper: we know exactly how to navigate this world of proliferating choice without losing ourselves, or losing balance. Because we've been practicing since the day we were born. I was born knowing that life is about taking the social temperature, sensing the direction of the collective wind, and then making the best decision for you. Sometimes on the spur of the moment.
And really, does sticking to a plan even work? How many stories have you heard about people who followed a routine and built a nice nest egg, only to have it all taken away from them? They contracted some terrible disease, got swindled by a savvier chaacter (possibly a snapper) or just got hit by a bus while running their daily half-marathon. Because Men's Health told them to.
Maybe they choked on the carrot juice they read about in O, the Oprah magazine. One thing's for sure: nothing is certain in this wild world. Calamity could strike at any moment, possibly in the form of a lightning bolt or an electric shock from faulty toaster wiring. So we may as well enjoy every second of our lives. Follow your nose! It will lead you to your true desires, and keep you away from food halls.