The Emotional Effects of Impulsive Decisions

Sometimes being impulsive can get you into a lot of trouble. This is pretty bad news for me as I tend to be pretty impulsive, and the worst part is that my impulsive decisions tend to have little rational thought behind them. It’s more like, have an urge, act on the urge, think about the consequences, regret acting impulsively.

Here’s an anecdotal example.

My junior year of high school the music department juniors and seniors took a trip to New York City. One of the attractions we visited was Ellis Island, and this happened to be one of the days where we had to buy lunch on our own as it wasn’t included in the price of the trip. It just so happens (if you can believe it) that there is precisely one food court on Ellis island with precisely three fast food restaurants to choose from. My friends and I opted for the panini place and as we stood in line waiting to order, I became indignant reading the prices of the measly sandwiches I saw leaving the “pick up here” side of the counter. These paninis were like, $12.00 each! With our drinks and the tax, each meal ended up costing around $15.00. I was outraged that I had to pay so much and was thinking how “we could have eaten a meal at Applebee’s for that price!” Yes, 16 year old me liked Applebee’s a whole lot.

I ordered my panini and was pretty much fuming as I handed over the giant wad of cash. The poor cashier who had to bear the brunt of my sour attitude gave me my receipt which I promptly began to tear into tiny little pieces while waiting to pick up my sandwich so that I’d never again be reminded of the robbery that has just occurred…oh teenage angst.

Approximately 5 minutes later the young dude at the “pick up here” counter asked me for my receipt so he could give me the correct sandwich. I believe the  exact word that crossed my mind was “shiittttt,” but what escaped my mouth was “uhh umm yeahh one sec *rifles through purse looking for non-existent receipt* Um yeah… I can’t find it…”

The kid stared at me like I was the idiot of the year (might be true) and was like, “Uhh how could you lose a receipt that she gave to you 5 minutes ago about 5 feet away from here??” And I was like, “Uh, Um, I, I, I don’t know, but like, can I get another receipt or something?”

At this point my friends who were waiting in line with me were like “Chelsea where’s your receipt?! How could you lose it? What?” And cracking up. If you know me, you’ll know that I blush at the drop of a hat and I’m easily the sweatiest person alive, and though it was mid-winter, I was sweating bullets and so incredibly embarrassed. Keep in mind that there were probably about 30 people in line behind me and I was cursing myself for making the rash decision to shred the receipt.

I ended up having to wait in line again, explain to the woman at the register that I needed a new receipt (more looks of incredulous condescension). She eventually gave it to me and I received my panini and slinked to the table where my friends were all sitting like, “you’re an idiotttt.” Impulsivity, my friends. I will never live this one down and I definitely count it as one of the most embarrassing moments in my life. It may seem like an overreaction to a seemingly harmless situation, but you weren’t there to see the incredibly condescending looks that everyone was giving me!

So like I sad, being impulsive can sometimes get you into trouble. But sometimes being impulsive can be awesome.

Like Saturday night when I bought a plane ticket to go home for Christmas. I don’t mean to be hypocritical; I still do think that winter is a great time to travel and I have learned lots about how to spend Christmas in Spain, but Facetiming with my best friends from college who all reunited in NYC this past weekend as I sat in a grocery store parking lot set something off inside me.

Facetime with ALL the friends (almost)

All the emotions that I suppress on a daily basis surged within me and I had a really hard time finishing my grocery shopping. My boyfriend was getting annoyed that I had no opinions on which ham to buy and that I was on my phone (looking at the instagrammed picture that one of the people on the other side of the Facetime call had snapped), but I was just trying to keep my trembling lower lip from turning into a full-blown bawl.

After we finished the shopping we went to get a coffee to take advantage of the last of the setting sun and I lost it as we crossed through a park on the way to the café, mulling over in my brain all of the moments I’ve missed over the past 2.5 years away from home and all the moments I’ll miss in the future if I stay here to be with my boyfriend.

After I was able to calm down and reassure Paco that he hadn’t done anything to cause my hysterics, the idea crept into my mind. Buy a ticket… my subconscious whispered. As soon as we got home I hit up SkyScanner to see if it was even feasible to keep thinking about. And that’s when I spotted it. A precious gem of a ticket; the only ticket that cost less than the amount of money that I had in my bank account. At a sweet $741 (540€) and “only 1 seat left at this price!” my brain quickly got to work. Could I make this happen? After a quick Whatsapp to my best friends (“Who’s gunna be home for Christmas… I’m looking at a flight”) and a rousing round of “DO IT”s,  I pulled out my credit card and didn’t look back.

So now here I sit in my freezing apartment just days away from boarding that plane home and I could not be happier. Though I’ve made some amazing memories the past two winters traveling and experiencing how the holidays are celebrated in Spain and other parts of Europe, there’s a huge part of me that I am constantly tucking away in order to allow myself to enjoy the present. Thoughts constantly leak into my conscious about what I’m missing at home and what I wouldn’t give to spend a weekend with my best friends, and the more time that passes, the more often I find myself fantasizing about what life would be like if I moved back to the US.

Then I get snapped back into reality when I realize that I’d be just as lost as I am here in Spain if I were back home. What kind of job could I get? What kind of job do I even want? What about Paco? Where would I live? Could I go to school? What about money?

And thus the reminder that neither here nor there is better, or easier, or happier. But at least for two short weeks I get to pop back home for the most magical time of the year to surround myself with the people I love. Impulsive decisions can cause unforeseen problems. But they can also transport us, even if just for a short while, to a place where our problems seem a bit further away.

So, have you ever made an impulsive decision, big or small? What was the result? I’d love to hear from you!

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4 thoughts on “The Emotional Effects of Impulsive Decisions

  1. I’m not sure of the last time I made a truly impulsive decision (if ever!), more so “decisions I had been mulling over for a while when I finally said JUST DO IT.”

    I hope you have a wonderful time at home this Christmas!


  2. Oh my goodness! Your receipt-wripping story is hilarious! That is so something I may have done and then later regretted it. I can be a tad bit impulsive, too… I tend to make decisions like that when I am angry. Then, I feel really bad about it later. Usually, it has to do with an argument with someone where I make a fool of myself.


    • Haha I’m glad someone else can appreciate it. My friends literally still make fun of me about it, and now I hoard receipts for weeks before finally cleaning out my purse! I really appreciate you reading and commenting, thanks Emily!


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