There are different reasons for different items on my New Things list. Some are things I’ve always wanted to try, but without the motivation of something like this, I never would have done it. Some are things that I’ve recently become interested in. And then some are things that I’m doing because someone else has suggested it before.
My brother and I share a disease that, I’m pretty sure, infects a lot of children. It’s a disease that makes us want to not do something just because our parents said to do it.
When I was younger, I would wake up some days and decide, “It’s time to clean my room today!” Things would have gotten messy after numerous stuffed animal meetings, Barbie adventures, and the like, and so I’d decide I wanted to see my floor again. I’d cheerily head downstairs, ready to eat something and then get right to work. I’d arrive, beaming in the breakfast room, and my mom would turn and say something like, “You could clean your room today.”
It wasn’t even her telling me to clean my room. It was her suggesting the same act that I’d already decided to do. But something about her saying it made it the last thing I wanted to do, ever.
My face would sour. I’d slump down in my chair. I’d huff, pout, and tell her that was not was I was going to do today. And I’d whine if she pushed me to do it at all.
It took years to admit to her or anyone the reality of the situation. It sounds dumb: “When you mention doing something, it makes me not want to do it.” But I did finally tell her that, and she said, “Your brother does the same thing!” after telling me that it was such a stupid thing to do.
Now, this might all be cute or funny, like, “Oh, haha, look at the silly thing Amy and Brad used to do when they were younger.” Except we still do it. And it’s still stupid.
I cringe when my mom mentions to my brother that it might be a good day to do ______ because I know that he probably would have done that today, except now it is the literal last thing he’s going to do today. And I still do it too. Even about important stuff. I’m planning a wedding right now, and every time my mom mentions something that she’s getting nervous about not being done (caterer, cake, etc.), it gets pushed down my to-do list at least a week. It’s my wedding. I’m only sabotaging myself here. But I never said it made any sense.
Recently, I’ve seen some evidence on the internet that make me think my brother and I aren’t the only ones afflicted by this disease. So what about you? Do you have things that you’re not doing just because it “wasn’t your idea?”
This month’s New Thing is learning HTML. I put it on the list through gritted teeth back in April, and the reason is because my brother has suggested I try HTML numerous times. (Yes, this affliction has spread so that even things my brother, who is also afflicted with this disease, mentions for me to do are rebelled against automatically.) Brad is a programmer, and he’s the one that first suggested to me the idea of becoming a copywriter (and for some reason that wasn’t an offensive suggestion). He’s told me, numerous times, that knowing HTML could make me a more appealing option for companies seeking a copywriter. He even told me I might like it. He tried to do all this in a way that sounded most like a thought or suggestion and nothing like a command, but I still decided, “Well, that’s something I’ll never do.”
But, luckily, I’m old enough to realize how dumb that is. So onto the New Things list it went. But then it was the middle of the month, and I hadn’t taken a single step to pursue this month’s New Thing. One day I got an unexpected package in the mail and inside was a book on learning HTML and CSS. And it was from my brother.
Now, don’t panic. I know you might think that I would take this as a don’t-tell-me-what-to-do-now-I’m-never-going-to-do-it moment, but I didn’t. Instead, I let myself get more excited. I was going to do a New Thing and someone else was excited about me doing it. Excited enough to sit down, research books on the topic for beginners, spend his own money on a book, and send it to me. That’s awesome, not annoying.
Though I did wait a day to let him know that I’d gotten it because I didn’t want to start just because he sent me a book… Sigh.
I’m not very far because I’m trying to make sure I take it slow, practice the things I’m learning, and really retain the info, but I am absolutely loving it.
I will admit now: part of why I didn’t want to learn HTML was because it was part of “Brad’s thing.” I’m a little sister, and that means that I both desperately want to be like my brother and be unlike my brother at the same time. Brad is awesome and he always has been. But being a younger sibling often means that you feel this urge or desire to do things differently than your older sibling. You don’t want to just be “Brad’s little sister” for your whole life, so you have to, at some point, step off the older sibling’s trail and start making your own, even though walking along the pre-made trail is easier. I’ve done that plenty by now. We went to different colleges, got different degrees, live in different towns, have taken different paths in life. But that old impulse is still there. “I can’t do this because Brad is doing this.”
But what if I really like it? What if resisting it for silly reasons is stopping me from finding something I want to do or just enjoy doing? What if that old impulse to resist what my family says to do is stopping me from discovering myself? They know me the best. Why wouldn’t their suggestions either come at times that I’ve already decided to do something or when I need someone to push me to try something new?
If you’re anything like me, making the suggested thing the last thing you’re going to do might be holding you back. My challenge for you is this: don’t just try a New Thing; try a New Thing that someone else had told you to try, someone who knows you. Something great might come of it.
And, no, Mom, this doesn’t mean that I’ll stop doing that annoying thing where things you tell me to do automatically become things I don’t want to do. It just means that occasionally I might listen to you and just do it.