By Bob Ossler with Janice Hall Heck
Being an impatient person and living in an impatient world caused frustration for me and those around me. As an young adult in the military, my distractibility caused me to go in so many directions at the same time. I was unfocused, unpredictable, and impatient.
My long-term goal was to become a paramedic. I trained and worked in X-ray technology in the military for well over a year. In my restlessness to learn more, I applied for a position in a military mental health clinic in California to expand my portfolio.
Dr. B., a psychiatrist and my direct supervisor at the clinic, became my personal mentor and friend. He seemed to understand my different learning style and my restless nature. He spent time talking me through my various life schemes.
In our frequent one-to-one meetings, my mind raced in all directions. I had a million questions and competing thoughts and interrupted Dr. B often to mention them.
Yes, I wanted to be a paramedic, but I also wanted to be a pilot, a better tennis player, and a better chess player. I wanted to study pharmaceuticals, collect stamps and coins, make stained glass articles, and play drums in a band. I tried out occupation after occupation and hobby after hobby in my head. They all seemed equally interesting. I wanted to try them all. And I wanted to be the best at everything I tried.
Dr. B. patiently helped me channel my wandering mind and gave advice on the more practical paramedic track.
One day, in my off hours, I rumbled around looking for something to do. I decided to check out the local arts and crafts store. There I found a book on oil painting and flipped through it. Sunrises. Sunsets. Sailboats on water. Lighthouses. Mountains.
Hey, I can do this. It’s can’t be that hard.
I bought canvases, oil paints, brushes, and other supplies and went back to my
dorm and started painting. My very first painting was brush strokes on a canvas–no image in mind. It was awful, so I trashed it. I didn’t like oil paints They took too long to dry. I was much too impatient. I wanted instant results. I switched to acrylics and liked that better.
I learned by trial and error. If I didn’t like the way something turned out, I just threw it away and started on the next painting. I loved the challenge of reproducing a scene that people could recognize. Despite the noise and movement of others in the dorm, I found comfort in painting. I hyper focused on my work and shut everything else out.
After seascapes and sunsets, I ventured out into farmland scenes and river scenes. I found I could look at other paintings and reproduce them. People complimented me on my work, and I made a few bucks here and there selling the paintings.
With my new-found talent, I was ready to chuck my long-term goal of becoming a paramedic to become a full-time artist. But even then, reality dawned. I knew I would never be a Picasso. I could hear Dad’s voice in my head, “Bob, you need a real job with a steady paycheck.” I had better keep my original goal.
I did stick with the painting but only in my free time. Painting tamed my jumbled mind and brought a measure of calm into my life. For once, my impulsivity led me to a new, satisfying creative outlet which other people seemed to appreciate. My impulsivity was not always so kind to me.
How about you?
What do you do to tame your impulsivity?
Has your impulsivity led you to a new creative outlet?
I’d love to hear from you.
Bob Ossler is coauthor with Janice Hall Heck of Triumph Over Terror, a book about Ossler’s experiences at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City.