creative non-fiction Curiosity Essay

A Curious Piece on Curiosity

Ellie Stuart has a complicated relationship with curiosity. Here she looks back at the times when she didn't follow the white rabbit . . .

by Ellie Stuart

Curiouser and curiouser . . . What will happen if I follow the white rabbit?

Curiosity has been both friend and foe in my life. I’ve followed a few rabbits down the rabbit hole, although unlike Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, mine were more adventures into death metal dungeons at 2am because I lacked the exit skills to get out of a bad date, and last-minute, 8-hour coach rides to Milan because there was a spare ticket going. All in the name of curiosity, but not quite the same wholesome tales of Alice (unless you believe Alice’s adventures were the product of a few too many magical mushrooms . . . the caterpillar scene being a case in point. Just sayin’).

But curiosity always has, and continues to, change my life in the most unexpected ways. Not always in a grandiose, epic way, and not always for the better. I’ll always regret being curious about instant salted caramel coffee that I spent £7 on for 50g, but at least I can pass this knowledge on so no one else need suffer drinking a cup, hoping with every sip it will get better, only for it to slowly dawn on oneself that really every sip just confirms that not every curious whim should be acquiesced, particularly in Tesco.

Curiosity is a wonderful thing. It’s how we discover the world, new art, new music, new tastes, new people, new ideas etc. and I wish I’d discovered it sooner. For much of my early twenties I was an over-thinker. I wondered about many things rather than doing them. I believed I could be a certain type of devil-may-care free spirit but struggled to let my actions speak louder than my thoughts.

“Now I feel that at the ripe old age of 26, I can now approach curiosity with an informed wisdom.”

When faced with krazy opportunities such as going to XOYO* for the first time with a charming and cool friend-of-a-friend, the curiosity police turned up. Despite my protestations to said charming and cool man (who could see I was apprehensive at the idea of going) that I’m sure I’d have quite a lovely time at XOYO (for those familiar with XOYO, I hear it’s one of the last places one could hope to have a lovely time, or encounter someone who said they were there looking for ‘a lovely time’) he very sweetly, and charmingly, suggested I might prefer a good night’s sleep instead. Needless to say I begrudgingly (but secretly quite happily) got on a random bus at 1am, and managed to night bus my way home by 3am. All very wholesome, and one of my most memorable examples of when I should have embraced curiosity rather than wondering what if, and vowed I would endeavour to let curiosity win more often.

‘Curiosity is not a sin, but you should exercise caution . . .’ Yas Dumbledore.

I’ve wondered whether I should have been more curious, tried to be too curious, and now I feel that at the ripe old age of 26, I can now approach curiosity with an informed wisdom. I don’t need to jump at every curious suggestion (I’ve got a pretty good idea what I’ll find behind a door in a death metal bar with a sign that begins ‘No biting’ and ends in ‘No spanking’ – I’ll let your imagination fill in the other 8 commandments . . .) but  I’m still curious enough that when a friend rings at 11pm on a Friday night when I’m already tucked up in bed watching old episodes of Naked Attraction for research purposes, I’ll sigh, get up, give myself a mental pick me up – ‘Come on Ellie, one day you won’t be able to get up unassisted, so enjoy it while you can’ – and I will strut/drowsily limp out into the night and on to the blessing and curse that is the 24-hour Victoria line on a Friday night.

And so it is that I have come to embrace curiosity cautiously, to act upon it when I feel like it, and not worry and wonder when I don’t. I know I’m never going to be the devil-may-care, says-yes-to-everything free spirit, but I’m also not going to get lost in ideas of wanderlust rather than get lost wandering.

I’m sitting here pondering how I bring this curious piece on curiosity to an end, curiously wondering if I’d written this at another time in another place (nothing fancy, probably just 9am in a Pret) if my take on curiosity would have taken on a different story or expressed itself in perfect iambic pentameter – but curiosity is in the ellipsis not the full stop, the adventures still to come and the stories not yet told, so who knows . . .

Go forth and be curious (but cautiously-ish).

*Krazy club for krazy people


Ellie Stuart 

Ellie Stuart is an illustrator and product developer. She loves: baking, comedy and g&t’s. She shouldn’t love: Justin Bieber, Love Island, Biscoff crunchy spread – but she does.

www.eleanorstuart.com

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