The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres


What ever happened to excitement? Pure, unadulterated excitement?

Perhaps the key is in the word unadulterated – not contaminated with adultness.

I was heading off to a photo shoot this evening and was feeling a bit nervous about it. I was running through my head all the things that might screw up and attempting to work out solutions in advance. This is, of course, fairly pointless, as it’s only when I’m in the situation will I be able to fully assesses what the actual problems are and devise suitable work-arounds.

It’s one thing to know this intellectually and an entirely different thing to feel it emotionally.

Part of me was definitely looking forward to the shoot. Although the set up was not ideally lit and time was much tighter than I would have liked, the person I was to photograph was a creative, intelligent writer with a fascinating cultural background, and it was likely to be an interesting experience creating a connection with her in the process of trying to produce a captivating portrait.

On the drive there I found myself mulling over my nervousness. Was it not possible to feel excitement instead of anxiety? And then I was struck by the thought, I couldn’t remember the last time I felt excited about something - really, truly excited - not infected with anxiety about what might go wrong.

And I really do wonder whether it was as far back as childhood.

As an adult I have learned to suppress feelings of excitement to try and avoid crushing disappointment if things don’t work out. I haven’t dared to allow myself to completely let go. There is always a part of me – that adult voice – which steps in to protect me from my own emotions: “What if it all falls apart? What if they fail to turn up? What if you embarrass yourself? What if it turns out to be a mistake? Then where will you be, eh?”

I can feel interest, enthusiasm, even passion – but excitement feels like a word I used to understand but no longer do.

Is it possible to hold on to pure excitement as we grow up, or even recapture it? Or is it something that requires a level of innocence – once lost, never to be regained – and as such, is left behind in childhood?


KLo said...

I think you might be onto something, although I wish you weren't. Most of the excitement I experience in my life is through my children's eyes ... it's really their excitement I'm sharing because I'm evidently too old to have my own. Sad ...

Hope the shoot went well : )

debra said...

learning to re-frame things has been immensely helpful to me: things are a challenge rather than a struggle. As you've said, you feel excitement rather that nervousness. It takes practice, and I feel somewhat silly at times, but I think I'm getting it.
Will you post photos?

Ron said...

An interesting question Kim. For me too it has also been a long time since I've been really, really excited. I remember when. It was in 1984 (I think) when I was at my usual weeking hangout (bar.) I had just arrived at the bar and was giving the patrons the once over for new faces and THERE HE WAS! Prince Charming! I man of my dreams in the flesh. When he looked back and me and smiled I felt electricity going from my head to my toes. I could hardly stand, my knees were weak. I won't go into detail on your family friendly blog comment section but let's just say I wasn't disappointed. Have I been that excited since? Not even close. But it did happen once, and that's more than most folks can say for a lifetime. I was literally thrilled from head to toe.

Ron said...

I can't believe I had two misspelling in my previous comment. Here goes:
"I was at my usual weekend hangout bar" and "the man of my dreams in the flesh"

My only excuse was that I was excited all over again just reliving that experience.

Helen said...

Hey Bearded One - I think the older you get, excitement levels are replaced with risk asessments - "if I do that now will I need a hip replacement next week" etc.

Every now and again, I just go "what the heck" and end up with a pain in my knee/neck/arse - but generally the excitment was worth it!

Living on the edge, that's me baby...(heh heh)

The Lassie & Laddie said...

Oh dear, am I ever guilty of that. I do realize what I am doing when I'm doing it, though and I am working (well, fighting is more like it) against this particular behavioural pattern as much as I can. I HATE being as full of anxiety and negativity as I am because of the way I've chosen to deal with things. Nowadays, I'm trying to tell myself there's enough time to feel crushed or negative about things when they actually do come to pass. There are just so many things that are completely out of my control, I honestly need to get. a. grip. and stop fretting over things I have no influence on. It takes a lot away from me, being this negative...I don't want my little one or any other potential children to set about life with this kind of attitude, so I'm trying to change.

Anonymous said...

Just before reading your post I had glanced out of the window and seen a young lad from down the street trying out his bike for speed.

Head down, feet pumping the pedals, hands gripping the handlebars tight, bike wobbling from side to side, pushing himself to the limit before running out of road and oomph.

He was riding in that carefree way that seems so natural before you lose that innocence and feel the pressure to become a "responsible adult".

Pat said...

Maybe I am a case of arrested development but I still feel anticipatory excitement, often mixed with a soupcon of trepidation.
I'd be sad if I lost this.

Anonymous said...

That's a coincidence..I was thinking about the same thing this week. I believe that's something universal. Everyone as a child experiences it. Right? I remember the feeling as it were yesterday but as responsible adults I think we can only experience it in a different way..we need to look after others that are allowed to experience it.

Z said...

I was a cautious child. I probably get more excited now.

Ruth said...

Debra, I concur with you entirely. Kim, your comments about personal narrative have been a touch point for me to remember that I do frame my own perspective and I've decided that life is for living!

I have lately experienced pure unadulterated excitement - feels a lot like joy!! :D It has helped me to get in touch with my new self post depression, there is something about that experience that feels like a renewal. I want to explore and learn like never before. The goal now, as a responsible adult, is to spread it out and add just a bit to everyday life but not enough that it could flip into an all-out nervousness trigger...or have truly devastating consequences. ;) My excitement is infectious, too, which has been an interesting phenom to watch.

hope said...

The "What if" game is a double edged sword: you can use it to think of all the POSSIBILITIES of life or how to prepare for future disasters. :)

When preparedness starts to raise it's "adult" head more often than awe and wonder, I find myself looking for something, however small, to bring back that sense of childhood wonder. Adult-like is great but we still need time to play and enjoy life.

I may not discover the cure for anything or make a grand gesture to save mankind, but those little moments of excitement [for me, discovering I CAN do something I thought was previously impossible] keep me finding life...interesting.

Jayne Martin said...

Sadly, I think you're right about innocence being a big component of excitement. It's a tough thing to hold onto as an adult. Sure we learn from our mistake, but we also remember how crappy they felt.

Still, I hope you had a good time.

Anonymous said...

When did I last feel excitement...unadulterated questions holds barred excitement...1981 the night I met husband number 2...that might have been the most excited I've been in my whole life. I'm not confusing "being in love" with excitement...I was both...mostly I was excited...excited...excited!!!

Sausage Fingers said...

I think we grown ups do everything we can to diminish the excitement gene. Watching a child on his birthday or the first time at Disneyworld is the closest I now get to this. I wish there was a way to bottle and sell the emotion, if so I would be the first in line at the pharmacy.

Katie Roberts said...

Sorry Kim, I reckon it is possible to feel excitement, pure excitement as an adult. I think it is sad that we 'protect' ourselves by anticipating disappointment so much, its kinda counter-productive. Maybe despite all life throws my way, I can still have those moments of pure, free, trusting joy. (But then again maybe I just get a bit manic!? hehe) Or maybe I just never grew up! Yep, I think that's the trick ;)

Hope you can find some again sometime. Hope you had some fun taking photos too.

Chocolatesa said...

I was thinking something similar myself lately. I think we each have to work at it.

Jayne said...

Well, you were sure excited about the shoot, so that is encouraging.
I have the opposite problem. I get overly excited about the smallest things. I don't take risks like I used to (things change when you have children), but I'm still willing to play a fool.
The downside of course is playing the fool. And disappointment when things don't pan out the way I'd hoped.

Mary Witzl said...

I can still feel excited about things, but it's not the same kind of excitement I felt as a seventeen-year-old. Now I know that excitement or no, if there's a mess, I'll have to clean it up; if something breaks, I'll be the one to pay for it; if somebody gets hurt/pissed off, etc. I'll be the one holding the hanky and listening to the spiel. I think I've managed about 85% excitement to 15% angst, though -- that's pretty much what I aim for nowadays.

Challon said...

It is possible if you choose. I get totally freaked out (childish) when I'm around babies or puppies or funny people. Love the last sentence to ur post:

"Is it possible to hold on to pure excitement as we grow up, or even recapture it? Or is it something that requires a level of innocence – once lost, never to be regained – and as such, is left behind in childhood?"

Eryl said...

I think it is possible to regain that sense of pure excitement. In fact I think it just reappears naturally: you work through the adulterating 'what ifs' as your experience teaches you that even when the worst happens it's not as bad as you imagine, you are capable of dealing with it. The more of these shoots you do, the more you will learn, and the less risky they will feel. Soon you won't need to consciously assess all the risks, your unconscious will do it without you realising. Once you get to that stage every assignment will be a joy.

Mimi and Tilly said...

Hi Kim, I don't know why, maybe it's because I worked with 4 year olds for so long (!) but I've never lost the tendency to get pant-wettingly (technical term) excited about things. It annoys the crap out of some of my friends and makes similarly pant-wet-ably excitable friends laugh.

Kim Ayres said...

KLo - It's true - it's easier to experience excitement through the eyes of children. The shoot went better than feared, thanks :)

Debra - This photoshoot was one of a series I will be doing, so I'll probably post several of them together at a later date :)

Ron - Glad you experienced the excitement, even if it was nearly 30 years ago. And don't worry about spelling and grammar on this site, unless it profoundly changes the meaning of what you intended to say :)

Helen - I'll give bungee jumping a go one day :)

Lassie & Laddie - I've learned how to reduce a great deal of anxiety by not thinking about things until the last minute. Unfortunately, I think this has also contributed to the ina bility to get truly excited about things

Vextasy - does excitement require fearlessness then? Or is an element of fear a necessity for excitement, but the problem of adulthood is the fear ends up being bigger than the excitement?

Pat - far from being arrested development, I think you are way ahead of the rest of us :)

Allen - It's great seeing kids excited, although when they are really small, we desperately try to stop them getting over excited in case they are sick, or don't sleep

Z - sounds like you're making progress :)

Ruth - Perhaps you should develop that blog of yours and let us know what is making you so excited :)

Hope - One of the things I am slowly learning is to trust my future self to sort things out, rather than try and solve all the problems for him now, when I'm not even in posession of enough information to be able to do it. But it's a slow journey...

Jayne - I did enjoy the photoshoot in the end, although I was far more exhausted afterwards than I expected to be. The previous anxiety used up a lot of my limited energy

Theanne - well, if it was husband number 2, I'm guessing you were probably no longer a teenager, so that qualifies as adult excitement :)

Sausage fingers - some illegal drugs might help, but the side effects and consequences kind of put a dampner on things

Katie - if you've got it worked out, perhaps you should start running some workshops on how to recapture it :)

Chocolatesa - step one is to become aware of it :)

Jayne - is it better to feel excitement and feel disappointment, or to avoid disappointment but avoid excitement in the process?

Mary - 85 to 15 is a good ratio. I think mine is probably the other way round

Challon - I hope you never lose your innocence then :)

Eryl - I might get excited about your Devil's Food cake...

Emma - as I suggested to Katie, above, perhaps you too should think about running workshops to help people regain that pant-wettingly feeling (although make sure you have plenty of plastic sheeting on the floor first... :)

Guyana-Gyal said...

Sometimes I think I never grew up, getting excited over little things. But I do sprinkle everything with a bit of worry here, some anxiety there. A good night's sleep is the best remedy.

Kim Ayres said...

Guyana Gal - unfortunately it is many years since I last had a good night's sleep...

Katie Roberts said...

I think I just didn't have my excitement spirit crushed as a child, so no need to re-capture it. Perhaps workshops for parents are needed?

David Mark Williams - Poet said...

I think you've identified the key to this: we learn a defence mechanism to avoid crushing disappointment. Or else we're trying to be cool (which excitement is definitely not). I am trying to reframe my anxiety these days though by telling myself I am excited instead!

Hindsfeet said...

just reading through some of these "trying to make sense of my existence" posts of yours my friend..........and definitely having a "we read to know we're not alone" moment........

....ever grateful,
Liz ~*

Kim Ayres said...

Liz - 2 places online that always remind me we are not alone with whatever we are feeling are Postsecret ( )and Humans of New York ( ). However, there is little replacement for real human contact during the worst times. I hope you have friends you can meet up with soon.

It was interesting to come back and read this post, some 4 and a half years later, and realise how things have changed. This was written back when the ME/CFS dominated my life in a way that it no longer does.

These days (post Mickel Therapy), I do experience excitement at times. Sometimes before an interesting photo shoot, but most often before I play in my band, The Cracked Man. We're doing a gig up in Glasgow tonight, and while there's a mild trepidation and fear of what might go wrong, my emotions are far more dominated by excitement at the idea of playing live to an audience, many of whom will not have heard us before.

Thank you, Liz,for commenting on this post and drawing my attention back to it. It's wonderful to realise how far I've come on since this was written :)

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