When I was a kid I had an odd habit of reading the last chapter of a book before I started it, spoiling it for myself, but secretly feeling satisfied.
Though I’ve dropped that specific habit, it’s materialized itself in a new way. I occasionally indulge in my story-spoiling urges by Wiki-searching the plots of movies that I doubt I’ll ever have the chance (or the appropriate streaming service) to watch. Sometimes I never watch it, and I feel content at least knowing what happens.
But most of the time, I eventually watch it, and even if I enjoy it, the experience is dampened. For a moment I’ll regret being so impulsive, rushing to spoil the ending from the start, because a part of me enjoys movies that aren’t your typical, predictable rom-com (though there’s always a certain time – i.e. very late at night – for that level of cheesiness). I remember my excitement the first time I watched an episode of what became my favorite show or the first time I listened to the chorus of what became my favorite song. I bask in the giddiness that surrounds those memories, because no matter how many times I rewatch the show or rewind the song, I can’t replicate the feelings I experienced when I saw those things with fresh eyes.
But the other part of me finds security in having a plan and trying to predict every outcome. I understand now that spoiling the endings of books for myself was more than a mischievous habit. It was me giving into this drive to always be prepared, because anytime I try to be spontaneous, I psych myself out, and I constantly struggle to go with the flow.
Even so, the times when my plans are derailed are arguably more memorable and impactful than the times when everything goes according to plan. For instance, when I was in high school, I dislocated my knees three times and had two knee surgeries. I certainly did not predict that, and being out in recovery for six months at a time taught me to be more patient and flexible with what life threw at me. I think I’ve grown a lot from situations like these because I’m pushed to broaden my perspective after being so focused on careful (yet inaccurate) predictions.
I don’t think this is a manifesto for myself to aim for a life that is perpetually unpredictable and exciting. And I do think there is a lot to be said about growing through the day-to-day experiences. Though it’s easier for me to weigh these two extremes and focus all my effort towards one end, I know it’s more important to balance these two. For me, that starts with planning less obsessively and becoming more accepting of situations I can’t predict. I think I’ve lived long enough to know that there are many things in the world I can’t control. It’s time to start seeing more things with fresh eyes, because when I think back in hindsight, some of the best moments in my life were enabled because there were no spoilers, and things didn’t go according to plan.
By Sara Cheung