Picking and Choosing

I’ve always been bad at making decisions. Anyone who’s ever gone to a restaurant with me knows the agony of waiting for me to choose between the soup and the risotto, and I have to start constructing my outfits the day before if I ever hope to get to class on time. But starting with choosing and college and showing no signs of stopping as I have to decide my majors and class schedules (and, of course, meals and outfits), I’ve had to make more and more decisions.

Lately I’ve realized the consequences of all these choices I’ve had to keep making. With each decision I make, I erase the other options (or I open up a parallel universe where the other choice did happen – that’s up for debate). The more I decide, the more I restrict myself. It feels like walking on a path that’s getting increasingly narrow or like slowly tangling myself in a web of choices like “Creative Writing” and “black skinny jeans”.

Sometimes, that’s overwhelming to me. I walked to the gym with a friend earlier this week, and we split up at the door. I went to the rowing machine, she to the rock wall to get belay certified. As I worked out on the little sliding bench in the corner of the gym, I couldn’t help thinking that my friend made a choice that would open her up to opportunities in the future as Someone Who Knew How to Belay People, while I had chosen the humble rowing machine in the corner of the gym and precluded myself from such a life. I knew that somehow in the future we would both be presented with a rock face, and she would get to scramble on up while I would be forced to stay on the ground.

Now, even I can tell that sounds pretty ridiculous. But the gist of my hyperbolic scenario is true. With each choice that I make, I slowly become Someone Who Does One Thing with Her Life or Someone Who Does Something Else. I write and edit for a few publications on campus, making myself Someone Who Writes rather than Someone Who Sings in the Musical or Someone who Broke Her Leg Attempting Rugby.

I’ve realized that this refining through decision making can be bad – like if you want to be a star in a musical but find yourself on the soccer field instead – but it can also be beneficial. The difference is not in whether you make decisions at all, but what those decisions are and how you feel about them. If you’re making the decisions that bring you closer to the identity you want to have, then those are clearly decisions you should keep making. And if you stop one day, reevaluate, and discover that you’ve put yourself on a path that you suddenly want to jump off? Then it’s time to start making different kinds of choices. Decision making is inevitable, but the trajectory of our initial choices is not.

As for me, I’m still happy becoming Someone Who Writes a Blog Shouting into the Universe and Takes an Hour to Pick an Appetizer. I hope you are choosing to be someone whose title you can be proud of as well.


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