The Marshmallow Test

“Why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation.” – Jane Austen

Back in college, during a Psychology 101 type class, we learned about the Marshmallow Test, otherwise known as deferred gratification. For those not familiar, it was when a group of children were given one marshmallow. They had the choice to eat the one, or wait for 20 minutes when, if the marshmallow wasn’t eaten, they’d get a second one.

Sometime later, it was decided that those children who waited went on to become smarter students.

The study was conducted again, this time with an adorable video to go with it. Once again, the children received a single marshmallow, and once again they were asked to wait in order to get a second – or eat the marshmallow right away to be instantly satisfied.

When I first heard of the study, I knew i’d be one of those children who waited. I was always one to wait. When playing Monopoly, I used to make a small pile of money and set it apart from my normal amount. That way I’d always have a “savings account” to go to when I truly needed it. I always had concrete plans before ever traveling; I never went to class without a backup pen.

I watched the video tonight and realized how waiting…isn’t fun. Sure there’s that guarantee for something grander in the end, but why delay gratification if it’s right there in front of you? Why wait for the possible when the definite is sitting on the table waiting to be eaten? There’s so much to do, to see, to want – why wait for a time when it may be better?

Maybe it’s because I just passed a birthday, or maybe it’s because of tired of hiding that small stack of Monopoly money. Maybe I want to buy Boardwalk, and hope someone lands on it so I can pay its taxes. Maybe I don’t want to wait for the second marshmallow anymore. Maybe I want to grab the one in front of me just as the instructor is leaving, pop it in my mouth, and ask “what’s next?” Maybe one is just right.

27

A few days without updates – yikes. I know, I promised to be a better blogger, but it seems like my life is getting in the way. Don’t think I’ve given up on this, though, nor the outfits. I’ll post a collection of them later this week. No one wants to see my face EVERY day.

I turned 27 last week, which was interesting. Twenty-seven is a scary number – it signifies “late 20s.” I’m not one of those people who dreads aging, far from it, but 27 just sounds a lot older than 26. Maybe it’s because I am.

I’ve accepted a lot this past year. For one thing, I’m engaged. I’ve fully accepted someone else into my life indefinitely, which, to say the least, is absolutely frightening. Frightening, but also really exciting. I’ve relied on myself for so long, it’s hard giving up little pieces, flaking them off one by one, in order to let him in. Give him responsibility. But I’m excited to – it’s not so much a destination, but a stop along the way. Like in the game Life – my existence isn’t ending as I pile Samir into the car, it’s still going and we’re gathering so much more as we peddle on together. I’m really excited to see where our game leads; I’m confident that it’ll be a long, enjoyable and worthwhile one.

I’ve accepted a new career path, which isn’t so much scary as it is needed and, seemingly already planned. From book selling to teaching to writing to librarianship, it all seems to make sense. I think what thrills me most about the next step is not just that I’ll finally be surrounded in literature once again, and helping students read and write, but that I’ll finally have time for myself to write. Creating copy all day is great, but it leaves me drained and lacking inspiration. I made a promise to Samir that I’ll have a finished book by my ten-year high school reunion, which will be next October. I will finish something by then. And this is the year, right?

But mostly, I’ve accepted myself. I’m far from perfect, and I know that. I’m extremely fickle; I get bored easily and have changed careers twice since graduating college. I’m indecisive, I apologize for everything, and I’ll never be amazing at something. I’m not the 100 lb. girl I was in college, and I won’t be again – but I love my curves and wouldn’t give them up. I’m okay with all of that. It’s an ongoing process, learning about yourself.

Recently, there was a trending topic on Twitter where users “tweeted” their 16 year old selves. It got me thinking about where I was at 16, but most importantly, who I was. At 16, I thought I’d be married with kids by 27. I thought I’d have it all figured out – okay, I’m not that person, but I’m getting there. Some people just need more time.

But if I could talk to my 16 year old self, I’d let her know that’ll all be okay. Believe in yourself. Be happy with who you are. High school is fun, but life gets so much better afterwards.

I read this quote this morning:

“A beagle chases rabbits for two reasons, I think (though admittedly, I’ve never been able to get a beagle to tell me for himself)

1. He honestly believes that if he ever catches that elusive rabbit, it will somehow be well worth the effort, and
2. chasing rabbits is fun.” (Dinty W. Moore)

I think that’s a bit like my life. I keep chasing for something, yearning for more. For a while, I didn’t know where it was taking me, but now I don’t really care. I’m more excited for the chase – the chase is fun.

So, I’m starting 27 with a clear mindset, and excitement for what’s in store. By 28 I’ll have a new career and name, which is weird to think about. But for now, I’m me – and I’m really happy with that.

This Year

I read a Calvin and Hobbs comic strip a while back that I took to heart. It said (more or less) that in years to come, you won’t remember the studying or test, but you’ll remember what you did instead. (If anyone knows the strip I’m talking about, please send it to me; for the life of me, I can’t find it again). During my undergrad years, I lived up to the strip (but, to my credit, I maintained a decent GPA). I wrote my essays, and memorized my Italian vocabulary, but I still wound up exploring abandoned dormitory buildings past midnight because, hey, why not.

My junior year, I was especially busy. On top of a full-load of classes, I was performing with the circus (which meant practice every day for two+ hours and the occasional work day or performance over the weekend), working at Waldenbooks enough to pay rent,  acting as Alice in the play Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and working on a student film. I was ridiculously busy, but I loved it. Every moment of it, I adored because each thing I was part of, to me, was fun. Even work. Even school. 

I remember one weekend when we drove out to Panama City Beach to film. I slept between takes, and even then, it was only for a few minutes, as I’d wake to find the crew staring at me and laughing. The next morning, I drove to work where everything had blurry edges and fuzzy lines. I should have gone to sleep after, but instead I saw my friends who I’d neglected the previous two days.

I had this insurmountable drive and passion and I loved it. I could live off two hours of sleep, and still manage to write a five-page essay and not fall horribly at practice.

At some point between then and now, I lost a bit of that momentum. Between graying hairs and lower energy, I’ve started falling asleep early. I enjoy nights in. I hate rushing.

But that same drive still pushes inside me. And that’s why this year is going to be a lot like that previous one. On top of working and graduate school, I’m going to be volunteering at the library, tutoring kids for the SAT and planning a wedding. Sure, not everything is as fun as my activities once were, but I’m busy again. And despite the lack of sleep and stress i’ll probably build up, I’m excited.

Because in the end, it’ll all be worth it. And this time I may not remember the hours that go into my job, but I will remember the look on my friend’s face when I tried on my first wedding gown. It was priceless. And my journal needs more memories like that.