One of my favorite things to do is spend a sunny afternoon exploring an expansive, inexpensive thrift store, the more varied the donation range the better. I try on dresses from decades past, pants with hemlines I’ve never tried before, shoes I usually avoid because they’ll probably facilitate a broken ankle. I thumb through dozens of books; sampling fiction, self-help and cookbooks. No trip is complete without a look at the variety of sporting equipment, kitchen gadgets and knickknacks. I spend most of my time not looking for things I need, but experimenting.
Now, I come from hearty experimenting stock. My mum is a teacher, a profession full of the greatest experimenters outside of a laboratory. I heard tales of experimental new books, classroom arrangements, curricula, displays, grading styles, bulletin boards and ways to rebel. My dad has an incredible range of hobbies running the gamut from playing stringed instruments of every kind to woodworking and P90X. He showed me from a young age that being a jack of all trades and trying on varied activities is a fascinating and valuable journey. My brother takes after my dad in his aptitude for hobbies. I specifically remember how sure I was that he was going to the NBA. Then I knew he was going pro with his dirt bike. Then his yo-yo 😉 He’s still one of the most versatile people I know and he constantly reminds me of how beautiful and special it is to try something new. As I’ve said before, my sister is a kitchen experimentalist. She has never seen a recipe that she couldn’t improve by adding a few of her favorite ingredients. Cooking with her was like learning to ride a bike without training wheels; once we had the idea the recipe got pushed aside in favor of self-direction. And chocolate. Or cheese.
While we’ve talked before about exploring, experimenting is altogether different. Exploring is about looking around to find something new and interesting. Experimenting is taking those things that you found, or even what you have at home, and mixing them around, putting them together and making something new. Experimenting is rearranging your habits to see if something else works better. It’s adding new meals and flavors to the menu and going a week without dessert. We get so used to life the way we live it and forget that there are other ways. The only way to shake it up is to experiment!
There are so many areas in my life that could use some experimentation. I’ve been trying a few for the last few months and honestly, I’m really excited by what I’m discovering. Like any good scientist, I’m observing how things change when I add or subtract certain elements, and the results have me feeling happier, healthier and more open to making changes in other areas of my life.
As with all usage of the scientific method, not all trial periods are successful. Sometimes we learn that the way we have been doing things is really the best way. Reordering the schedule might create too much stress at points throughout the day. Taking a new way to work might add more time than the scenery is worth. Adding kale to every meal might actually make you frustrated and cranky not anti-oxidized and youthful.
That’s kind of the point of the whole exercise, isn’t it? We all live our lives the best that we can. Trying to do our best, connect in the best way, eat the best things, and fill our various needs to the best of our ability. We usually find a way that works and call it “good enough”. But this is kind of the only life you’re gonna get. It’s just this 85-95 years. Is “good enough” really going to do it?