Remembering YOLO When Scheduling Babysitters and Using Paint

YOLO, you know?

Keeping in mind that you only live once can be freeing, or paralyzing. The more present-minded, brave, and adventurous people who walk among us say “carpe diem!” and find ways to make their moments count. My own default approach is cautious. I worry about the worst case scenarios and making the wrong choices, always remembering opportunities are limited (because you only live once). I worry almost constantly I will have wasted a rare chance doing the wrong thing.

Take a mundane example: eating out. I rarely eat out, in effort to better live within my means. Now I have a child, so mindful spending is further elevated. My spouse and I have planned a date night, our first time with a babysitter! Where to go to dinner becomes a loaded decision. What if after all that planning, I pick a restaurant that isn’t as good as another option? What if we don’t enjoy our food, and we feel our money and precious time was poorly spent?

You are probably already thinking this, but that is a pretty shit mindset to have. It’s impossible to accomplish or enjoy anything when you’re busy worrying.

Without changing the situation at all, I can change how I see it: We almost never have a babysitter and we’ve lined one up, fabulous! We’ve budgeted for a sitter and a dinner someone else cooks: how delightful and luxurious! I can’t wait! Whatever I order, I won’t have had to shop for it, or prepare it, and neither of us will be doing the dishes: hallelujah!

A similar mindset shift is needed in how I view my creative time.

I can feel paralyzed by making the first mark on a blank canvas, because I never forget that paint, canvas, and my time are finite resources with a dollar value attached. I worry I’ll be wasteful. Do something bad, or perhaps do something good, but fail to make a sale, and perhaps that is still bad, because it can be seen as wasteful. This way of thinking hinders the entire process and steals joy from an activity I choose over and over and over to define the very essence of myself.

Timothy App, a professor of mine from MICA (and don’t make the mistake of calling him “Tim”…) once asked me, perhaps in an exasperated tone, “can’t you just make a mark, and mean it?” In honestly reflecting on my physical painting process, probably not. I layer. I don’t execute beautiful paintings when I try too hard to stick to a plan. But Timothy’s comment has stuck with me for over a decade, so there must another helpful meaning I can draw. I’m going to try rephrasing it: “can’t you just make a mark, any mark, and get on with it already?”