Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 19, 2021

Be impulsive­­: You might learn something new about yourself

By STEPHANIE LEE | October 10, 2019



While it can cause problems, being impulsive plays a large role in how Lee experiences the world.

The bathtub itself took 30 minutes to clean and another 10 to fill. For a quick 20-minute dip, it resulted in quite a long series of catastrophes, including my almost dropping my laptop and my copy of Jonathan Spence’s The Search for Modern China into the disappointingly soapy water. It was stress-inducing rather than stress-relieving.

I stood in my underwear in front of my bathtub, clutching the $5 counter-cleaner I bought from Eddie’s Market during move-in week, watching the fluid foam and the exaggerated sweetness of artificial lavender slightly infiltrate my small dorm’s bathroom air. Either the smell of the cleaner was just that overpowering in such a small space, or I had accidentally inhaled more than I had intended to. 

I couldn’t tell, but my burning right nostril (the one less stuffed with congestion) indicated the latter. I turned the shower dial and stared, transfixed on the violent torrent tearing out of the faucet, crashing on the tub plug and spilling over the white porcelain, mixing with the cleaner and dust and all the dirt inside my tub. 

I stared in slight disappointment, just as my mom must have stood while watching my then-four-year-old brother using baby powder to recreate snow back in 2007. 

I was wondering how the hell I, with a plethora of work spilling over the lines of my planner, had just spent the past 40 minutes of my life trying to prepare a bath that I clearly wouldn’t enjoy. The fact that I remember this in such keen detail only serves as a testament to my unusual awareness of the time I was wasting. 

It was out of pure impulse. I was feeling quite stressed with the amount of writing that had to be done by the next morning, and I thought baths were supposed to relieve stress. 

Unfortunately this bath nearly cost me a thousand-dollar laptop and hundred-dollar textbook, along with 40 minutes of my life I will never get back. However, taking a bath in my dorm had always been high on my bucket list, and my friend gave me a bath bomb for my birthday. 

I loved baths but seldom took them in California due to water shortages, and I wanted to relax. And yes, while I could have been more productive during that hour-long block of time, I don’t regret wasting it the way I did.

For people with impulse control, I need you to imagine not having those skills for a moment. I believe that acting out of pure impulse is not an inherently bad thing. Of course this depends on the type of action you are committing. But for me personally, I’ve crossed off a bunch of (useless) things from my bucket list by acting on impulse. And while this might seem like a waste of time, just realize that not 100 percent of your time should be devoted to either classes or something productivity-related.

Think about the last time you did something you genuinely enjoyed in your free time. I’m not talking about napping or watching Netflix. I’m talking about a leisure activity. When was the last time you doodled a character from a childhood TV show in the corner of your notebook? When was the last time you wrote poetry about the cute person who was walking across Shriver Quad with the Herschel bookbag and the untucked button-down? Or the last time you went out for a walk to Olin and back just to see the changing leaves of autumn trees and to experience the general hell of walking to Olin?

I’m guilty of responding to quite a few of my impulses. I’ll search for instrumental covers of early-2000s jams just to belt out lyrics in the middle of cramming my readings at 12 a.m. in my apartment. I’ll walk out toward Brody with the goal of grabbing an iced chai and grinding on C-level until midnight, but then I’ll be completely derailed for an hour because I’m feeling cute as hell — so cute that I’m taking pictures in the brick breezeway between Gilman and Ames. And I’ll get caught up in some old shots from high school I swiped off my Nikon and start editing them in Lightroom for a solid period of time. If you don’t respond to your impulses, how else will you take time to do the pointless little things that make you happy?

Life isn’t supposed to be a perpetual cycle of work, sleep and food with mindless texts or social-media browsing scattered in between. 

Your free time doesn’t have to end up on your resume. Don’t dehumanize yourself to a piece of paper that probably won’t even be fully read. You deserve more than that.

Too often, people solely emphasize their end-goals, which generally revolve around a) making money or b) finding a job. Sure, money makes the world go round, and people literally cannot live without it, but we must try to enjoy things from time to time. 

Act on an impulse from time to time — dig out your old Polaroid, read a book about sexy vampires or meander around campus just to find all the pointless name plaques on the trees. 

Maybe you’ll spend 30 minutes trying to figure out how to wipe down a whole bathtub with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide before realizing how stupid the idea is. 

Perhaps you’ll accidentally burn your leftover fries from Doner Bros in the oven in the time you’re trying to get the old hair dye off the sides of your tub. And then you might find yourself sprawled on your bed at 2 a.m., half asleep, trying to write a column about birth control but impulsively changing the topic to, well, this. 

I’m sure you’ll learn something new about the task at hand. But more importantly, I’m sure you’ll learn something new about yourself.

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