I hate surprises.
There. I said it.
If you were ever to throw a surprise party for me, I would beat you within an inch of your life and then (most likely) cry. Gifts, compliments, accidents, bad news… It’s all on the same level to me and yet people always seem surprised when I tell them that “no, I hate surprises.” After all, we can generally agree that we don’t like uncertainty. Many people would agree that being certain that you can feed yourself, clothe yourself, and house yourself is something that everyone should have. None of us question that. Uncertainty is bad. Risk can be exhilarating, but can lead to bad results if you’re not careful.
But surprises, which are basically uncertainty coming up and socking you in the jaw, are seen as happy things for the most part.
Whenever someone asks me about surprises, there is always one image that unfailingly comes into my head. It was from a TED talk, one of the first ones that I ever watched, and it features a much crasser Tony Robbins than I ever expected. I’m going to paraphrase here, but the general discussion went as follows:
Tony: How many of you like surprises?
*Audience puts most of their hands up*
Tony: Bullshit, you only like surprises you want!
It’s a way of thinking about things that I had never considered before. Surprises had always been presented as such good things, that I had unfailingly been considered weird for despising them. When we think about surprises, we tend to think about flowers at work, gifts, or parties. We don’t often think about surprise deaths, surprise pain, or surprise bad news. We also don’t tend to think about the life changing surprises that can get tossed our way.
There has always been something about uncertainty and surprises that make my skin crawl and if you feel the same way then don’t worry! We’re not alone. In fact, if you feel like that the freedom that endless choice could bring is less beautiful and more terrifying, then you’re not alone in that either. Studies have shown that more choice ends up being detrimental after a certain point and that there needs to be a balance between the information available and the choices that we have to make.
Surprises and the choices that come along with surprise can be horrifying and debilitating. Go ahead, yuk it up. I’ll wait. Seriously though, they are paralyzing. To be able to handle surprises with grace and to make tough choices quickly without regretting it later are skills that I do not possess and probably never will. Whether it’s a surprise about a change in my schedule or something as small as someone reaching out to touch my shoulder, it can be hard to stand.
So, uh. Even if you love surprises and want to shower the world with love and affection. Just don’t do it. Or rather, don’t surprise me with it. Let me see that love and affection from 5km away and we should do just fine.