If you’re older than 3, you’ve probably had your fair share of worries here and there. You’ve worried about whether you should play marbles or chess, whether you should try out for the basketball team or not, whether you should ask Susie or Phyllis to the prom or whether you should go to State U or State Tech. Decisions prey upon all of us from an early age, and stress boils up from each one. We worry if we should do A or B, and project even further – if I choose B, then I’ll need to consider C or D.
Making decisions is not something that comes easily to me. I am not, by nature, decisive – I’m analytical. When I buy light bulbs, I like to consider environmental impact, current cost of CFLs versus long-term savings due to long lives and the effect of harsher lighting on mood. I don’t just buy a bulb – I buy a future. I consider each and every possibility that can occur.
Once in a while, though, I have a glimpse of the future that doesn’t involve careful planning. As Curmudgeon recently noted, I am slightly obsessed with failure. I agree, although I’d make a slight distinction and say I’m obsessed with crisis more than failure. I’m obsessed with meeting the moment of decision and making the right decision (and therefore avoiding the wrong decision, which is a fear of failure). But my nature is to avoid failure – not to seek success. It’s a small difference, but making a hundred or a thousand decisions like that can drastically change your future.
We already made one huge decision – to move 1000 miles from where we live now. But now I’ve found myself trapped by stupid, small decisions – hire this mover or that one? Rent this house or that one? Keep the garden hose or buy a new one after we move? These decisions are false choices. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if I throw away OR keep the garden hose I will not remember that decision in a year. I will not even remember that it was a choice in five years, and in ten years I probably won’t even remember where the garden hose I own came from. I know that these decisions will disappear in time, but I am seized by doubt in the short term.
So today I’ll look at each decision and ask myself a couple of questions: is it a decision that affects the health of my kids or my wife? Does it harm my own well-being? If not, I’ll make a decision and move on, because the worst failure is not making the wrong decision, it’s making NO decision. Nobody can move through life debating each choice endlessly. Eventually a choice is made – eventually a die is cast.
The choice of a path forward is critical, of course. When I returned from Moscow, I had two good job offers – one near my hometown down South, and one in New York. I thought about the options, decided that both were equal – and then seized one. I don’t know what the other route might have meant to me – maybe life would have been better, maybe worse. But the choice needed to be made, and having made it I have no idea of what the future might have held had I stayed in the South. My life in its current state would not have existed – no Bubelah, no Little Buddy, no Pumpkin. It’s an almost incomprehensible difference in retrospect. But having made the choice, I realize that it was the right choice, because it led me to today, and the past is done. If you look at your life – or anyone’s – and the choices you have to make in order to live a good life, you’ll realize that living with your choices is never as difficult as making your choices in the first place.