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January 10, 2019

You Had Me at Alien Green:  An Ode to Frivolous Decision Making

When it came time to replace my beloved Honda Odyssey, I had to take several important factors into consideration: cost, gas mileage, seating capacity, and cargo room chief among them.  We are a blended family of six who travels a ton, often with all four of our teenaged boys in tow. This means six bodies as well as various sports equipment, snacks, electronics, and luggage.  The Honda, with seating for seven and up to 147 cubic feet of cargo space, had served us well for many years. But with over 250,ooo miles and a worn out transmission, it was time to move on.

 

Changes were coming to the family.  My eldest son (a hockey player and golfer whose sports equipment accounted for the bulk of our non-human cargo) would be off to boarding school in less than a year. My stepsons lived primarily in Virginia, meaning that most of the time it would only be me and my 12-year-old son in the car.  He enjoys soccer and acting—two delightfully low cargo activities. Could I go smaller???

 

The car I really wanted, a Honda CR-V, turned out to be a little beyond my price range.  My sister had a Kia Soul that she really loved, however, and convinced me to take a look.  I started browsing on-line and it wasn’t long before I fell in love with my little green goddess:  an “Alien Green,” 2014 Kia Soul. Mind you, the car wasn’t completely out of line with my needs; namely, the price was right and it got decent gas mileage.

 

In all other aspects, however, it simply did not measure up.  I’d be reducing seating capacity from a comfy seven to a tight five. Cargo room in the Kia maxes out at about 65 cubic feet, less than half that of the Odyssey. In exchange for better gas mileage I would be losing a ton of power—going from a 3.5 liter, 6 cylinder engine to a 1.5 liter, 4 cylinder engine. On my test drive I noticed that even with the “pedal to the metal” it took nearly a full minute to get up to highway speed.

 

But that color.  Who could resist it?

 

It wasn’t the smartest choice—not on paper and not in reality. I’ve questioned my decision on many occasions, like any time we’ve had to take two cars because we couldn’t all fit into the Kia, or when I’ve had to leave an antique mall treasure behind because it simply wouldn’t fit, or when my son’s hockey stick was jabbing me in the elbow.

 

But I gotta tell ya’, every time I see that car, I smile.  I smile at its perky greenness and its compact little body. I smile at my personalized license plate—a play on the phrase “Soul Sister”—and pat myself on the back for my extreme cleverness. I can spot my pint-sized green machine a mile away, even in the most crowded of parking lots. It costs virtually nothing to fill the tank with gas, and parallel parking is a breeze. When I’m in that car I feel like a younger, sassier, more creative version of myself. Because the engine is so weak and I’ve been forced to slow down, I also feel more like a more responsible citizen, and a less frenzied human in general.

 

Now, I recognize that choosing a car based on its color is a prime example of privilege.  That being said, I’d like to believe that frivolous decisions can be made at any price point. If a car is out of reach, try these ideas: take a luxurious nap; buy a unexpected shade of nail polish; get that tattoo; order dessert; call a friend instead of doing the dishes; try a daring new hairstyle; date the person who makes your heart sing regardless of what anyone else thinks; speak your mind even if it you know it will mean a difficult conversation—in other words, choose with your heart instead of your head.

 

Of course, we can’t make every decision this way.  If we did, I’d show up to work in yoga pants, spend far too much money on jewelry, and eat key lime pie every morning for breakfast. But I believe it’s important to make some of our decisions with a distinct spirit of lightheartedness. Not everything has dire consequences.

 

In 2019, look for instances where you could risk taking the more fanciful route. Some of your least sensible decisions could turn out to the best decisions you ever made.

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Allison Banbury

Allison Banbury, a licensed mental health counselor, works at the University of Delaware’s Center for Counseling and Student Development. In her 27-year career, Allison has worked as an English teacher, dorm parent, school counselor, mindfulness instructor, and dean of students in both public and private school settings, as well as owning her own private practice. She is ecstatically married and the proud (and sometimes frenzied) parent of two sons and two stepsons. Allison enjoys traveling, reading, outings with friends, and spending time outdoors. She has flirted with writing on and off throughout her career, and is hoping Elephant Journal turns out to be a great fit!