Disaster Thinking – May 23, 2002

I am skipping Economics class again. This time, I am willfully skipping it; I have a quiz, and I have plenty of time to get there, but I’m just not going to go. I haven’t read the book, and I want to know the information if I’m going to bother to show up. I’m acing the class so far, so this shouldn’t be a disaster.

I wonder why I’m always thinking about things in terms of whether they will be a disaster or not. I wish I could think instead about whether they will be wonderful and amazing beyond comprehension. Sometimes they are. Still, there’s always a nagging part of my brain that runs through a million nightmare scenarios of what could go wrong, as if doing one thing will be a trigger for a slew of other mishaps that are either unlikely or utterly, completely ridiculous.

Here’s a sample of my thought process as I walk to the car each morning:
– Please don’t let me get in a car accident. I wonder what I’d look like if I got in a car accident. Would I be all bloody and unrecognizable, or would I look like I was sleeping? Would I hit my head on the steering wheel since I don’t have an airbag? I wonder how much longer my car is going to last. It’s getting kind of old and I don’t want to pour a ton of money into it if it’s just going to die soon anyway. Is one of my tires going flat? No, I checked it two weeks ago and it was right where it was supposed to be. It’s just bulging because it’s near the engine, and the weight of the engine and other car innards is pressing down on it. That quarter is still on my seat. I wonder why I don’t move it. Am I going to be late? I hope the car starts. If it doesn’t start, I can call in and will have to call AAA to get towed to the mechanic, and I don’t have a ton of sick time left. Did I charge my cell phone before I left? Shit. It’s out of batteries. If I break down and my cell phone isn’t working, how long will I sit on the freeway before someone helps me? Will the police see me and pull over? What if I break down on the part of the road that’s under construction, where there’s no shoulder right now? I’d have to climb over the barrier and try not to get hit in the process. Then I’d be stuck on the other side of the barrier with the construction vehicles. I’m turning on the radio now; I hope nothing bad has happened and there’s just music instead of people telling me the airports have been shut down. Pulling out backward; please don’t let me hit Frank’s 1965 Mustang as I perform this K-turn to get out of the garage. If I did, would he know it was me? I’m the obvious conclusion, considering where my parking space is, but it could have been someone else pulling in or out. Would he sue me? Would I lose all my savings defending myself in court? Then if my car broke down I wouldn’t have enough for a down payment and I’d have to lease. If I were injured in a car accident, would work fire me? Would someone help me carpool to work if I broke my leg and couldn’t drive? How would I get around if that happened?

Et cetera.

Considered one way, I’m very comfortable with risk. If you consider the things I’ve done from an outsider’s perspective — moving far away for college, taking jobs in cities where I knew no one, deciding to freelance for a while, starting a business, moving somewhere with no apartment and no job — it may look like I am hyper-confident. But the truth is that I’m always freaking out about any of a hundred things that could go wrong. I just do it anyway. The heart of it, I think, is that if I don’t follow through, I’ll have to wonder “what if” for the rest of my life.

Most of all, I don’t want to do that.

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