I did something crazy this week. I’m not going to tell you what it was — at least, not yet. I’ll just say that it was something that I was afraid of, and it was stupid, and it was wrong, and it was not good by the definition of most people in this little world of ours. But I did it anyway. And you know what? It’s fantastic. It’s the best thing ever.
So let me tell you a little tale about doing something crazy, and why you should try it for yourself.
I grew up a pretty straightlaced, whitebread kid. But during my junior year in high school, I met some kids who were fun in a totally different way than I was used to. Specifically, they were weird.
One of them once wore a pink women’s nightgown to school. Some had hair that was green, or blue, or multicolored. They were all curiously polite; we always shook hands and for some reason referred to each other as “Mr.” at a time before I shook hands with anyone. They formed a club dedicated to toaster appreciation — the Toaster Lovers’ Association, or TLA — and created a number of shitty film and audio projects culminating in The Flame Squad, a documentary about a gay policeman who licked windshield wipers.
One of these people — we’ll call him Robert Charles Stuart the Third to preserve his anonymity — was the guy who introduced me to punk rock. He had a cassette with Bad Religion’s No Control album on one side and Alien Sex Fiend’s Open Head Surgery on the other, and we listened to it during a drive to Cedar Point (that’s an Ohio amusement park, for you heathens) one summer day. And I fell in love — with punk, with the ideas behind it, with the notion of nonconformity and the fact that there was a totally “wrong” way to do things that nonetheless worked somehow.
So during all of this punk rock listening and filmmaking (we made a series of shorts involving a 96 oz. can of Vanee brand barbecued beef from Gordon Food Service), we, as teenagers who of course were the most profound thinkers ever, decided to have some retarded personalized items made up.
A tip: If you go to a keepsakes shop like Things Remembered, they’ll engrave pretty much anything with anything as long as you ask with a straight face and pay in advance.
So one guy got a plain white nametag that said, “I Like to Romance Fish.”
And here’s one that I still have:
But when you got past the tomfoolery and just being dumb, what really mattered to us was the spirit of punk rock. So we also had things made like a beat-up money clip sporting a line from the Jawbreaker song “Boxcar” (the lyric “you’re not punk, and I’m telling everyone” was too long).
I still use it today:
… and of course, the dandy at the very top of this post: the “Do Something Crazy” nametag that was kind of where the idea for this post came from:
I had that nametag made after listening repeatedly to a Mighty Mighty Bosstones song by the same name. (And by the way, if the only MMB song you know is “The Impression that I Get,” that’s kind of like judging Stevie Wonder on “I Just Called to Say I Love You” – so do yourself a huge favor and check out the deeper archives.)
At the time, I liked the idea of “doing something crazy,” because it was fun and interesting. In my teen years, “doing something crazy ” meant taking that 96 oz. can of Vanee into (and getting kicked out of) the GNC sports nutrition shop in the mall, or listening loudly to Rob and Rick’s we’re-not-even-trying band LMNOP, which released the hit albums My Ass is Welded Shut and Mouth to Buddha Recessitation (sic). (The master of Nate Makes a Good Ham and Cheese Sandwich with his Hands Tied Behind His Back was accidentally erased when one day, Rob taped over it with Poetry Rodeo.)
But now that I’m an adult, the idea of “doing something crazy” is more profound, more elusive, and much harder than it used to be.
Doing something crazy is quitting your job and having nothing but a dream to fall back on.
Doing something crazy is taking up gymnastics when you’re a 30-year old, 205-lb man, just because you want to try it.
Doing something crazy is not following through on an obligation that, in retrospect, was fucking retarded to have ever made.
Doing something crazy is knowing you’re a good person — yet doing something that society suggests makes you a bad person because you know that society is wrong.
Doing something crazy is doing what you want, no matter how many people laugh.
Most people can’t actually do something crazy once they hit a certain age. They may think they can, but taking barbecued beef into stores is for teenagers. It’s young-person crazy. Doing teen crazy as adult is a cop-out; it’s not truly crazy anymore. It’s not far enough outside the lines. It’s not stretching your comfort zone, challenging the walls that we and other people put around us to make us fall into line and behave.
So I keep that nametag, and when something that I want to do feels like a stretch, I’ll ask, “Is it truly stupid and wrong? Or is it just crazy?” If it’s the latter, I’ll usually give it a shot, and damn the reactions I get. And frankly, it’s made all the difference in the world for me.
Try it some time. Normality is boring and redundant. The juice and freedom of life is found when you’re out with the wackos, doing what’s not quite right.