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Confession #2

November 10, 2009

I believe that there are two types of people in the world: Those that like surprises, and those that don’t.

I don’t like surprises at all.

This is not to say that I throw a hissy fit whenever someone surprises me. For example, a coworker surprises me with a Slurpee from time to time. I love Slurpees, particularly of the Coke variety. However, it’s the Slurpee I love, not the surprise of receiving a Slurpee. If I knew it were coming, I could prepare for it–I could eat an early breakfast or wait to brush my teeth until after the Slurpee arrives. I could be ready.

The same goes with presents. I think people (myself included) love to eschew wish lists because we know what someone else really wants. Our ego says to us that we’re the one who really “gets” that person, and we’re going to come up with the perfect present to prove it. The truth is, for those of us who don’t like surprises, we’re much happier when you (a) get us exactly what’s on the list or (b) don’t get us anything at all.

This may not seem like an earth-shattering confession. But the truth is, not liking surprises is a symptom of not liking spontaneity, and I see that as an issue ingrained deep inside of me. It’s about letting go and enjoying the conversation when a friend calls out of the blue. By being unable to let go and rolling with the punches (and surprises often feel like punches to me), I miss out on some of the random beauty of life.

Here’s a classic example of how I react to surprises and how I miss out on what could have happened:

The year was 2002. I was studying abroad in Kyoto, Japan, and I had found myself a very cute Japanese girlfriend. She lived in Osaka, a city that’s about an hour away from Kyoto by train, so we only saw each other about once a week. The rest of the time we spent texting in cute little Japanese characters and talking on the phone.

I remember the date because it was the day before my birthday: January 8. Mayu had ended our text conversation that night with a somewhat cryptic question: “What time will you wake up tomorrow?” I told her the exact time that I woke up every day (8:15) because it left me the exact amount of time to eat breakfast while studying for my daily Japanese language quiz, shower, brush my teeth, get dressed, bike 3 miles to school, adjust my hair, and get to class exactly on time. Every morning was exactly the same, precisely calculated to maximize sleep and efficiency.

So at 8:15 on my birthday, I rolled off my futon (I get up immediately after my alarm goes off because of previously mentioned calculations), scooped some morning rice out of my rice cooker…and heard a knock on the door. I suspected it was one of my neighbors. The thought crossed my mind that it was Mayu, but it couldn’t possibly be–she know I had class, and her round trip was over 2 hours!

It was Mayu.

It was snowing. Dollops of snowdrops fell around her face. I’ll never forget that face. It was the picture of happiness, all pink and smiling and pleased with it self. “Happy Birthday!” she exclaimed.

“Heyyyyy,” I replied. I already knew where this was going.

She came in, unbundled herself, and gave me her gift while I ate morning rice. She had spent all night preparing a traditional box of Japanese treats and candies (something you give someone on a special occasion).

After she explained to me what all the little candies were, she wiggled up to me on the couch and said, “So…it’s your birthday. What do you wanna do?”

I looked up from my rice and–I kid you not–said, “Well, I have class in 30 minutes, so I need to get ready to go.”

A few minutes later I ushered her back into the cold, closed the door, and went back to my routine so I wouldn’t be late.

I’m sure any of you with an Asian fetish can think of all the possibilities I missed out on by not relaxing and letting go. If I had skipped class for the first time that semester, would anything bad actually have happened? Maybe I’d have a much crazier, kinkier story to tell instead of this sad, stilted tale.

That’s my life. I’m not OCD. I just know exactly what point B is and I won’t let anything–even cute Asian girls–get in the way.

And honestly, part of it is that I’m hyper aware of people’s feelings. Not all people’s feelings, but some feelings. Like, in the above example, I truly was worried about offending one of my beloved Japanese teachers. Or the other day when I didn’t go over to a friend’s house to watch football when I said I would because I ended up unexpectedly hanging out with an out-of-town friend, even though I was able to let go of my original plans, I felt bad the entire time for dropping Plan A.

But all in all, this is a confession because I realize that my reaction to surprises greatly limits my life. It limits adventure. It limits the number of those nights that you actually remember among all those countless nights that are pretty much the same.

Before I sign off, a few closing notes: One, to all of you out there who love surprises, please at least try to understand those of us who don’t. Surprising us doesn’t lighten our day–it just adds anxiety to it. So despite how pleased you are with your surprise, if you really want to make us feel good, don’t make it all about you. There are ways you can ease us into a world of spontaneity, and surprising us is not one of them.

Two, I will always draw the line at birthday surprises. Sure, it was great of Mayu to surprise me on my birthday, but that’s the one day when I feel completely justified being selfish about my time. My ideal birthday is a free day for myself. Don’t surprise me and ruin my peace.

I sound like a curmudgeony old man, don’t I?! This is my confession. Can anyone relate?

You can read my first confession about how I don’t like to go out of my way for anything here.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 10, 2009 11:33 pm

    Relate? To Mayu, maybe. I love surprises. I love surprise visits, surprise gifts, surprise outings, surprise confessions, all of it. Like you said, it makes life more interesting – and I’m a “get the most out of life that I can” type of person. But I get you anti-surprise people. I know a lot of you. And I’m fine with the surprise swear-off. Takes a lot of pressure off me.

    I can’t imagine living with the extent of rigidity that you describe, though I am a firm believer in “to each their own”.

    What I find particularly interesting is this: “I’m hyper aware of people’s feelings. Not all people’s feelings, but some feelings. Like, in the above example, I truly was worried about offending one of my beloved Japanese teachers.” What about your girlfriend’s feelings? Surprises aside, I see this a lot in others. I’m sure I do it myself as well. Why are we always so much more considerate of the people in the periphery than the ones we love the most? (This is not a stab at you, Jamey. Just a general observation of human nature that you bring to light in this post.)

    • November 10, 2009 11:45 pm

      Great point about feelings–I actually meant to write about that in the paragraph, but then I forgot and kept writing! Whereas I was all too concerned about my teachers’ feelings, I completely disregarded my girlfriend’s. Why is that? Even now I can’t make sense of it.

  2. Joe S permalink
    November 10, 2009 11:38 pm

    I know a guy who can relate to you. You know him – his name sounds like “Beef Wellington”. My last girlfriend was alot like this. So I can relate – to Mayu.

    Good confession though. Why do you have to do it on a blog, is Fr. G locking you out of the confessional these days?

    • November 10, 2009 11:46 pm

      Well, I don’t have to do the confessions on the blog, but I thought it might be a good way to be a little more vulnerable out in the open. Most of my posts aren’t really personal at all, so this is a way for people to get a better feel for the “real” me.

  3. krw permalink
    November 11, 2009 5:49 pm

    I love this confession thing. I’m almost inspired to make some confessions myself. I think it takes courage to make your unfavorable qualities public. This isn’t a jab; and to make up for it, I will admit that I can totally relate. I am pretty rigid. I might even say I’m OCD; well yes, I am OCD about certain things. Just ask my boyfriend–he’s become a victim of my sometimes anal behavior since we moved in together (sorry bf). I don’t like surprises and I am also very impatient. Here’s an example of my impatience: On some Saturday or Sunday mornings we plan to have coffee together. This is a sweet idea, but I operate on a schedule. I get up early and I immediately drink my coffee. On these days that we plan to drink coffee together, I am forced to wait for bf to wake up. This is okay. I can do this once a week. Last Saturday, I waited until the exact moment he opened his eyes and then I announced, “OkayI’mleavingseeyouthere” (to which his reply was, “Holy balls”). I definitely could have waited 2 minutes for him to get dressed. We could have strolled hand-in-hand down the block to the coffee shop while the leaves swirled with the wind around our feet on that unseasonably warm fall morning. Too bad I’m impatient.

    • November 11, 2009 6:20 pm

      “Holy Balls” might be the best response ever. I laughed out loud.

      There is something purifying in making my unfavorable qualities public. A blog is a great way to put your best foot forward, but I think it’s more genuine if you put both of your feet forward and let people really know you.

      Impatience…you describe it really well in the way that you see what could have happened that morning if you had given it two more minutes. I’m equally impatient, but I’ve discovered that technology has actually made me less so. Specifically, the iPhone. Even if I’m lingering by the door waiting for someone, I can whip out my iPhone and have something to do. That way I don’t feel like I’m wasting time or the other person is wasting my time. It’s not a cure-all, especially when I know that I’m inconveniencing other people, but it certainly helps.

  4. Dionne permalink
    November 11, 2009 10:34 pm

    You know I love your confessions! I’m proud of you for putting yourself out there…now if we can only work on your control issues. Yes, that’s right I said it- CONTROL. I know you’ve “owned” that before, but I thought I would rehash that issue because I, too, hate surprises for that reason alone- CONTROL. When it comes to emotions I tend to be controlling because I don’t like the attention put on me when I am not asking for it. I’ve always been the “observer” type in my life and rarely like the attention (unless its for a job well done and then my “teacher’s pet” attitude comes out). So I own that my deeper issue is CONTROL. I hope you continue to own yours and grow in that area in your life. I’ve found, as you mentioned, life is far to rich and exciting to let it pass you by because you felt you had to be in control when the idea of “control” is only a perception and not something real.

    • November 11, 2009 10:51 pm

      Very interesting assessment. I hear that–I definitely hear the control thing. I think the hard part is, where do you draw the line? Surely some control is good.

  5. Dionne permalink
    November 11, 2009 11:14 pm

    Yes, some is good. Just take it one situation at a time, one decision at a time AND it always helps to get feedback from others. I’m grateful that my bestfriend is a great sounding board for me and is always honest and tells me what I need to hear and not what I want to hear. None of us can “grow” alone.

    • November 12, 2009 12:08 am

      “None of us can ‘grow’ alone.”

      I love that sentence.

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