1IQ #5: Do I Have To?

When rain hits your windshield, it impairs your view. You see droplets, but you don’t see through them. The more it rains, the less you see.

That is, until enough raindrops fall to merge into one sheet of water, through which you can then see clearly.

In the same way, little droplets of thought descend upon us; disparate, unconnected, obstructing a clear view of things.

Until the seemingly separate droplets amass, and eventually combine to give us a full, clear idea of something.

Each individual droplet seems insignificant, inconsequential, but after a while it takes only one drop to condense that thought process, stopping you in your tracks, before moving you swiftly on with a new clarity. Something critical, something poignant; perhaps something that appears so only through the view of your own windshield.

Throughout my teenage years, I was mostly lazy, thoughtless, heedless, idiotic, and always squandering my potential as if it was an infinitely renewable resource. (Life-spoiler: it is not!)

Though I might not have said it aloud, my attitude toward school, requests, chores, homework and the like was:

“Do I have to?”

If I spin off an avatar of myself ten years younger, what would I say in reply to teenage-me’s pathetic question?

A part of me would want to backslap him and shout: “Of course you have to, you feckless, beardless twerp!”

(Anyone with children, teenagers especially, will know that the slappy-shouty approach is rarely effective.)

Now, what would I say to said feckless and beardless twerp?

I would attempt to administer a droplet that hit my windshield a wee while back.

Though from teenage-me’s point of view, it might appear inconsequential, certainly flippant, maybe even uncaring. Lucky it hit my windshield when it did, making the pitter-patter coalesce and cascade away, leaving me with a crystal-clear way to view my life and life choices.

I would say, “You don’t have to do anything!”

You don’t have to wake up tomorrow morning if you don’t fancy work, nobody can stop you from punting your alarm clock out of the window and lying in, picking your nose and watching Jeremy Kyle.

You don’t have to finish your reading for school or college, nobody can stop you from procrastinating and procrastinating, eventually giving up, and feeding it to your dog.

You don’t have to help your friend move house, nobody can stop you from making an excuse, telling them you can’t because you’ve still got studying to do, or your dog has eaten something dodgy and fallen ill.

You don’t have to do diddly fecking squat.

Of course, there are consequences to your actions.

If you don’t wake up and go to work, you will lose your income and compromise your livelihood; if you don’t finish your reading, you’ll fail your course and qualification; if you don’t ever extend a helping hand to friends, they won’t bother and you may lose them. These life choices have certain consequences, the endpoint of which will likely be unhappiness or resentment or destitution or a combination of the three.

Consequences and life outcomes will differ if you wake up and turn up to work on time; if you bother to apply yourself to tasks, study, hobbies; if you freely offer your time to help friends and family. You will be happy and prosper; you will earn respect and self-respect

But the moment you picture yourself as forced to do these things, that’s the moment you reinstate that carefree yet oh-so-oppressed teenage mentality, and dare to pose that question, “Do I have to?”

The essence of responsible adulthood is recognising that you make choices freely and must accept the consequences. There is no slave driver.

Now that I write that, I think this wisdom would probably have been wasted on teenage-me, being a mere drop, lost amongst the rainfall of reprimands which fell onto my windshield, and which I wiped away without a care or lesson learned.

Funny how an idea can be so eye-opening, while the same idea fed to the same person a few years younger would have been met with eye-rolling.

1IQ (1 Idea/Quote) is a series of short and sweet pieces focussing on a single idea or quote.

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