Did you watch Bill Nye the Science Guy? I did, and not just in seventh-grade science class. Bill Nye came on after Arthur and before Wishbone when I was in fourth grade, all shows I watched to the extent where I’d recognize the episode that started the cycle over again. I could never make out that line about inertia in the opening theme song: every time, I heard “inertia is a property of Mallory.” Mallory as in the glasses-wearing redhead of The Baby-sitters Club. I googled it just now, and so it’s seventeen years later that I’m finally learning Inertia is a property of matter.
I am not a scientist, but right now I’m thinking about inertia.
Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion (Wiki). Inertia is why my sister’s cat sometimes runs into my leg when he tries to scamper down our polished-hardwood hallway. It’s why people collide with each other walking carelessly down the street and it’s why taxis hit cyclists. It’s why it’s so much easier to stay sitting at your desk instead of getting up to file some papers. And it’s why sometimes I keep eating chocolate all afternoon long—it’s easier than stopping eating chocolate.
Just as inertia looks different on different people, there are different types of resistance as well. Lack of money is one. So, I don’t buy more chocolate when I really want it because I’m resistant to spending money on it. Then all I can think about is the chocolate I’m not eating and I’m annoyed all day. Inertia’s fault.
Or, I’ve gotten myself into a habit of climbing the stairs to the eighteenth floor once a day. My quads are stronger, I huff and puff less each time, and I feel good. Then I go away for a week and when I come back, it just seems like too much effort to take the stairs. Why would I do that? It’s summer and I’m tired. Then two weeks later, when I do walk up to eighteen, it hurts. So that’s it. Bye bye, stairs. Inertia, both times.
It’s laziness, yes. It’s easy to keep on the same track, to resist changes and conserve energy. It’s also fear. It’s safer to stay the same and avoid the possibility of failure.
Historically, I have been blase about some big changes (transferring between colleges) and ridiculously terrified of small ones (going to a party with people I don’t know very well). My inertia is capricious; it doesn’t really make sense. But at some point I read this line from Mary Oliver:
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
And you know—there are things for which fighting inertia is just worth it:
Taking the stairs to the eighteenth floor once a day.
Skyping with that old roommate.
Cutting your hair.
Sending out your resume again and again and again.
Spending the money on the wedding so your friends, your family, your community can be there to support you and to share in your lives.
Buying the chocolate.
Buying the shoes.
Not buying the shoes.
Saying no to the committee that looks great on your resume but makes you overworked and miserable each month.
Saying yes to the late night at the beer garden with a couple you’d like to know better. Even on a Tuesday.
Yes. Sometimes no. But mostly yes.
After graduating with an English degree, Amy (Allen) Frieson (’10) moved to New York City and spent several exhilarating years working in children’s book publishing. Now, she works as a career consultant and has much more time for writing, reading, wandering the city, cooking non-vegetarian meals (a new thing), dreaming about apartment renovations, and leading worship along with her husband at their NYC CRC.