Sunday, July 17, 2011

Confessions of a List-aholic

Staring at my computer.

I was confronted with the death screen. White and blue lettering on an otherwise black screen. I turned my computer on and off, on and off, off and on, off and on, and then off again.

I pull back, slumping against my chair, a little too tired for words. My mind racing at the different options, different scenarios, and different price tags I might be confronting. I immediately pulled up my mental checklist, grudgingly adding another task to my laundry list.

Ewan tries comforting me and JunJun offers to go fix the computer with me. I walk up to my room under the excuse that I need to ask Amanda for her computer, but I walk away to collect myself. I try to assess my emotions. Sometimes I find it hard to understand what I'm feeling... but I always find that once I pinpoint what I'm feeling, I can calm down considerably.

I was feeling anxious. A little bit distraught... but mainly just annoyed with what had happened. I was nervous about how much money I would need to spend. I hadn't accounted for how much my French visa would cost in China (another 1800 RMB -- which is 277 USD or roughly 180 quid for those who want to quickly assess my financial situation)... and to tack on a computer problem would considerably squeeze my already tight budget. I started re-doing my budget and listing out future and potential expenses. Fuck.

When I feel anxious, I make extraordinary random lists and elaborate plans.

I can make list after list of things to do, things to see, books to read, people to meet, places to visit, and goals to accomplish. My planner is color coded -- my to do list in one corner and my day planned out by the minute in another corner (usually when I'm abnormally stressed out during exams, emergencies, or when my parents fight)

I compulsively make lists and plans. Like, really. Some people joke about having anxiety problems and quirks. I promise you; I most likely, probably, maybe, definitely do have an anxiety problem of some sort. And it's not a lame joke. I can't really explain why I'm like this... then again, I've never really bothered to understand this one facet of my personality. Some people may pick up on this habit of mine ... but looking back, I'm not even sure even my parents, my ex-boyfriend or even best friend ever actually knew how extreme this part of my personality was. Sometimes I'd be on the phone with my ex and I'd bring up the idea of traveling together (looking up hotel prices and emailing him random websites)... but he always dismissed it as random musings, as if I was suddenly caught by the idea of traveling... not realizing that when I was bored or distracted, instead of doodling, I'd be making ridiculously long lists of countries to visit. On the back of napkins, the corner of newspapers, book margins, random handouts in class, or on the edge of flyers.

I realized I wasn't normal when I realized I was afraid to tell people how far I plan out some ideas (particularly travel plans). Part of me was afraid people would laugh at me... How corny would it be for me to say that my dream was to travel the world? What people don't know is that I've been like this since before middle school.

I remember after one particularly large fight my parents had, I planned out an entire family vacation to Maine. At the time... I was 12, and I had the idea that if we just took one family vacation together -- things would just go back to normal. Maybe the fighting would stop if we just remembered how much fun it could be to be together. I was young.

Nonetheless, the image was in my mind and I was completely enraptured by the idea. Family vacations always seemed like they would be relaxing (at first), brought my brothers and I further apart (due to long car rides without AC), and managed to tire us all out by the end of it (because we forgot that the point of a vacation is to relax and we did too much sightseeing). But... my parents always mellowed out considerably and never fought. And that's what I wanted.

I looked up maps, hotels, and hiking trails. I planned out our daily schedule for a four day weekend trip... making sure to plan around a budget, timing each activity, and even taking into account driving time. I looked up when different museums open and closed and what areas had peak travel seasons, seasonal discounts, and special promotions. I looked up local attractions and popular restaurants -- and even tried to find restaurants that would cater to my father's high culinary demands. Every aspect of the vacation was considered. I even went so far as to check to see when the sun would rise and set in case my family wanted to do a hike to take some pictures. I compared hotel prices and tried to predict gas prices. I looked at rental options and also considered bike shops. I spent the better part of a day planning out a trip that we never took.

Now? When I'm really upset? I'll just hop onto a random site and look up airplane tickets (my current favorite - AirAsia)... my mind constantly figuring out a budget, listing out prices, figuring out currency conversions... my cursor quickly navigating hostelworld, couchsurfing, and various websites. Multiple browsers opened, endless amount of tabs to sift through.

I don't generally know what I'm doing next week... let alone have a definite ten year plan (because I have 26 ten year plans -- Plan A to Plan Z). In fact, I'm the biggest procrastinator -- so to be honest, it's kind of stupid I even make plans. Probably the biggest reason most people don't know how OCD this quirk is ... is because it doesn't affect my mood if things don't go according to plan. I hardly ever have to stick to plans. If plans go awry, I never get upset, I just replan. Nothing is ever definite in my life. When you travel around as much as I do, it's tough to make promises and it's easier to be flexible and laid back. And I'm the furthest thing from high maintenance when it comes to traveling. But I like having ideas. An idea of what will happen. So let me clarify and say -- I don't compulsively plan, I compulsively make plans. Does that make sense? I make plans because I am stressed, I don't stress because of plans. I like having plans even if I'll never follow through with them.

So I always write down all of my options... and plan every option out. I have tentative plans for almost every country. For every country, I have a list as to what I want to do and see in each. You actually cannot understand my wanderlust. It's only after I got to college that I realized... I can actually follow through with the millions of ideas, scenarios, and plans I've concocted over the years.

So my computer breaking down? No big deal. Let's breathe, calm down, and think. New budget. New list of things. New plan.

p.s. I hope I didn't scare anyone.

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