It all started when I was using StumbleUpon and came across a satire. It was modeled after an Alcoholics Anonymous pamphlet and began:
It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then to loosen up. Inevitably, though, one thought led to another and soon I was more than just a social thinker.
I began to think alone — “to relax,” I told myself — but I knew it wasn’t true. I was thinking all the time. I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don’t mix, but I couldn’t stop myself.
Luckily, the narrator admits to himself that he has a problem and decides to get help, giving the story a happy ending:
I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home. Life just seemed … easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking.
The satire must have been vibrating at my natural frequency because even though I knew it wasn’t intended to be taken seriously, it still resonated with me. As a heavy thinker, I related to the narrator. I too had a thinking problem, and it was time to take my life back. I decided to stop thinking.
While it’s neither biologically possible to never think nor to complete coursework without some minimal level of thought, any thought beyond these requirements was disallowed. Whenever I caught myself starting to ponder the meaning of life, I quickly put an end to it — steering my mind away from constructive thought. While playing Madden NFL, I even went as far as to “Ask Madden” what plays I should call and let him decide.
The satire is right; life is easier without thought. Instead of wondering what the internet would be like in five years, I was playing Tekken while watching Pokemon and Hannah Montana. It was easier to get sleep too; I no longer laid awake in bed trying to decide who the best NFL quarterback is. Still, there was one thing that I missed about being a thinker — decisiveness.
For instance, I was in the men’s restroom one day. This particular restroom had three stalls, all empty — meaning I had to make a decision. At the time, it was my firm belief that in the average men’s room, the middle stall is usually the cleanest. Stopping myself before I thought any further, I went into the middle stall. But for some reason, the toilet paper reminded me of orbital theory — maximum separation between electrons. If another man walked in, he’d have no choice — he’d have to choose an adjacent stall. I moved to the right stall. Then again, the right stall’s floor was kind of sticky, so I went back to the middle stall.
I used to be George W. Bush — the Decider. I’d think about restrooms while lying in bed and hit the Internet to do research about social theories pertaining to restroom situations. When it came time for action, I would’ve already decided a long time ago which stall was the best in which situations and in which restrooms. As a result, I’d pick a stall and go in it. Now I was Rebecca Black — which seat can I take?
Even worse, my indecisiveness was not confined to the men’s room. One day, I was at MacGregor Convenience. It took me a long time to decide between Cheerios and Raisin Bran and between Sour Patch Kids and Sour Patch Extreme. Nevertheless, I at least looked like a normal person because a lot of normal people stand there trying to make decisions at the grocery store. My shopping trip didn’t truly spiral downhill until the lady behind the register asked, “Would you like a bag?”
“Yes, please. I’d like a bag.”
“Nevermind; bags are noisy.”
“Actually, it might be hard to carry all of these things. Give me a bag.”
“Wait! Bags are bad for the environment.”
“You know what? Put it in a bag anyway.”
While I was embarrassed about the shopping bag debacle, I was in luck. After leaving MacGregor Convenience, I saw that the corridor from MacGregor to New House was empty — meaning I could skip back to my dorm without anyone seeing me.
As I skipped to New House, a poster caught my eye. It was for a local Madden tournament with a whopping $100,000 grand prize — enough to buy all of the electronic devices I’ve ever wanted. Back when I was a thinker, I might’ve considered competing. However, I knew I couldn’t win a Madden tournament anymore; my thought-intensive strategizing was the best part of my game.
In fact, Madden was not the only thing I no longer won at. At the time, my greatest recent accomplishment was finishing all four seasons of The O.C. In an evolutionary sense, people are designed to chase goals and feel rewarded when they attain them. I didn’t even remember the satisfying feeling of fully wrapping my head around something complex. My life just wasn’t as fulfilling as it was before, when I was still unlocking thought achievements. I decided to go back.
It wasn’t easy. I’m inclined to believe the brain really is muscle-like because it took me months to regain my former levels of thought fortitude. Still, it was worth it. I could make decisions again, classes made more sense, and I was once again a Madden winner. It may not have been easier, but life just seemed … better, somehow, as soon as I started thinking again.