When People Surprise Me

Flipping the script on the narrative of life

I always love a good story. I enjoy hearing anecdotes from friends, elders, and even strangers. I frequently watch movies and television shows, and I’ll occasionally read a book if its plot and characters sound promising. One aspect of a narrative that never fails to captivate me is an unexpected twist — a point in the story when I believe I have everything figured out, and the storyteller goes ahead and completely flips the script on me.

I live for these moments. The sudden rush and excitement I feel while attempting to grasp what’s just happened is something I can only explain as GAHGUHBOOEY. As I try to understand why a specific character would take a specific action and do my best to make sense of it all, I often find myself questioning: “Would that person actually do that?”

In real life, it’s a bit different. When I think I have somebody pinned as predictable and that person flips the script on everything I thought I knew, I can’t question it. I can’t ask, “Would s/he actually do that?” That person did do that, and I’ll admit — sometimes, being proven wrong is just as good of a feeling as knowing I’m right. Even for those of us who cower at the thought of the unknown, this unpredictability breathes life into the most (seemingly) boring of people, characters, stories. Similarly, while a narrative may not need a twist to intrigue, entertain, or provoke thought, this element of unpredictability can bring a story to life.

Unpredictability fascinates me. Not being able to forecast the way situations will pan out is the reason I get myself into said situations in the first place. Sure, I can try to plan out my course of action in certain circumstances, but the script almost always gets rewritten mid-scene. And since life is so unforeseeable, we must be able to improvise and adapt to whatever it throws at us.

My best moments are when I act completely “out of character.” Unpredictability is an attractive quality to me. For the most part, I surround myself with people who can surprise me — people of whose tendencies I am well aware yet from whom I never quite know what to expect. Of course, everybody has their Classic [Your Name Here] moments. For example:

Oh, here he goes, writing about silly stuff again. Classic Ryan.

But, whether we choose to believe it or not, people have a knack for surprising us. And when we experience these instances of unpredictability, when we are caught in the riptide of life — an ocean of obscurity with everything we anticipate crashing with each wave — we must take a second to appreciate the unexpected, the abrupt calm of the water around us.

I live for these moments.

You can find more of Ryan’s work in Human Parts, The Coffeelicious, Absurdist, Life Tips, Slackjaw, and The Bigger Picture. You can follow him on Twitter here or check out his website here. He’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading!