Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Choices

Back when I originally started this blog three years ago, this image was one that I was considering for use in the banner to convey the concept "Without a Map". I decided not to use it, but I've held on to it. I tried finding the original source and now I can't... it's on someone else's blog as the image at the top of one of their 2010 posts, and that's it.

The metaphor in the picture is perhaps obnoxiously obvious, but my attachment to it has remained. We are at crossroads many times during any given day, faced with choices about whether to wear this or that, to eat this or that, to have this or that reaction to a situation, to speak or not to speak. There are so many choices that we can't possibly give them all detailed analysis, and there is a growing literature of books that frequently have a one word title (Blink, Sway, Nudge) and magazine articles in pop magazines like Psychology Today that examine the nature of quick decision making, often repeating what is becoming common knowledge: that your gut very often leads you to the right decision... or at least the same decision that you would have made had you spent loads of time thinking about it.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about the decisions I've made, but generally after I've made them. I've had to make a lot of the bigger decisions in my life quickly and without sufficient data (which I'm guessing is true of most of us), and while I don't have many regrets, I do wonder sometimes if I've done myself a disservice in not being a more jealous guardian of my right to carefully make decisions. Of course, I believe that if I had carefully made all the major decisions in my life I would find myself wondering if I'd done myself a disservice by not trusting my gut immediately. Such is the nature of this kind of pondering.

I do remember having a sense in my 20s that my choices really *mattered*. I guess they did, since there were a lot of firsts: first job, first apartment, etc. Recently, though, that sense has left me. I'm often bored with my decisions. I find myself thinking things like "anything I'm doing could really be done by someone else" and "regardless of what I do, the only thing that I can be certain of in life is that I'm going to owe some faceless company a lot of money". Ironically, these thoughts have come since I took a job specifically for the purpose of making enough money so I wouldn't have my choices limited by my debt. In attempting to free myself of one enormous shackle, I seem to have lost the overall meaning somehow.

Why *is* that? Is it the emptiness of working just for pay? Is it that my focus on one goal is obscuring my sense of my overall purpose? Or does this just happen to everyone in their mid-30s, a kind of advance midlife crisis wherein I realize that I've made a certain number of decisions that have really closed off some options, and that there are a number things that I actually can't reverse course on now?

I've been trying to remind myself that there's a season for everything, and that this too is just a season. I believe that thinking that your choices (and by extension, your life) don't matter is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that it blocks the Holy Spirit's work... so I don't want to hold on to this. I just want to hold it up to the light and look at it, acknowledge it, pay attention to it and be aware of what it might mean. This is not a place I want to stay, but I think it is a place that it is easy to remain in without knowing, and to grow still and stagnant and increasingly unhappy without quite knowing what's gone wrong.

2 comments:

Julia said...

Hi Amy -- I was wrestling with a similar theme about choice last month when I looked around and saw my friends & family hitting a wide range of milestones. I don't have an answer, just a reflection here: http://www.juliarocchi.com/2010/11/prayer-140-two-roads-diverged.html

I'm glad Charisse connected us!

Best,
Julia

Allie said...

I'm so glad you are blogging again! I've missed your beautiful and thoughtful words. And I've missed your outlook and perspective, which, though usually different from mine, makes me stop and consider and ponder and ruminate and reflect and pause and wonder. If you ever do find your way, I'll throw you a party and we can have mimosas or something. And if I ever find MY way, then we'll do the same but with long island iced teas. And the party will be in Germany.