In The Name Of The Act Itself
I’ve swallowed a handful of pills, and tried to force myself into the illusion of love. I’ve shoplifted makeup, and stood up against a bully for a girl I didn’t even really like and crossed the street on a red light, multiple times, without looking both ways. I wasn’t thinking of the consequences that would follow each when I did them; I figured that, whatever that happens would happen, and I wouldn’t be able to find out until I tried them. When I do these things I’m not thinking about the result — I’m thinking about the act itself. These acts are sometimes dangerous, occasionally stupid, or almost always ill-advised, but there’s one that stands out to me as being none of these: I used to write letters, its contents the fantastic imaginative musings only a child is capable of, and slip them into the mailboxes of homes I picked at random.
It seems like the kind of try-hard quirky thing that you can see in any media starring Manic Pixie Dream Girl, co-starring Moody Mediocre White Guy. But I was young enough to not know the world of cringe and cliche, old enough to go on walks around my San Francisco childhood neighborhood (Geary Boulevard, Clement Street), and starry-eyed at the thought that it might even change someone’s life. I had stationery from my summer visits to Korea and a collection of pens for school, as well as a brand-new, bright pink planner I’d gotten in a yard sale for keeping track of addresses.
I don’t remember the contents of the letters I wrote, except a vague recollection of mentioning butterflies in one of them. I only told my younger sister that I would be doing this, to which she replied, “Wouldn’t they think it’s by some crazy person?” Still, she stopped for me as I climbed up the steps of the houses I’d chosen, intimidatingly high. I remember sliding the first of the letters in the mailbox, turning around to climb down, and suddenly being hit by the sudden fear of tumbling down. I didn’t. We continued on and I delivered the rest, another one or two to other randomly selected houses.
I never got a reply back, or even managed to send the next batch to letters to these anonymous pastel-coated houses. I don’t know if I ran out of material to write about, ran out of faith — what if my sister was right about me seeming crazy? — or ran out of time. (Was this the summer I moved back to Korea? This memory is so hazy, so formless to me, all colors and feelings and sunlight instead of when/where/what. All the truly spontaneous things are.) But I stopped, grew up and weary of the existence of consequences.
Perhaps I tried the aforementioned, reckless behaviors because I felt, but didn’t fully comprehend, the sensation of becoming bound by the awareness of cause-and-possible-effect. Becoming scared of a potential outcome that could be a disguised blessing or life lesson, of being kept back by something that didn’t even exist, at least not yet. Perhaps I thought I could prove to myself that I could still do things for the sake of doing them, not because I wanted to get some kind of tangible result. Some experience, maybe a story.
But my letter-writing tryst wasn’t even for experience or a story. Making someone happy was the positive side-effect that flew through my mind, not the goal. There was no goal. Just a desire that I acted on, instinctive and excited, not thinking of the chances that A or B or C would happen.
So many things we do are for a comprehensible result. While that allows for growth, development, and courage, I propose doing what we’d like to do, the chance of consequences be damned. To do something without attempting to look out into the future. To feel like I did, sliding that anonymous letter into the mailbox.