I graduated college at 21. After speeding through my classes in what would now be considered a record four years, I realized too late that I wasn’t ready yet. As my hair was being curled for the big ceremony, I had a trash can tucked into my arms – sure that I would vomit if I spoke or moved or even took a deep breath.
Now what do I do? Where do I go? There was no longer a pre-determined next step. On the other side of that stage was a pack of wolves that I would be fed to with only a fancy piece of paper to combat them.
That was my first true moment of anxiety. Up until that point, I had never questioned myself. And looking back, it’s probably because most of those decisions were fairly straight forward. I had a set number of options with very tangible and realistic outcomes, and when that cap and gown went on, that all disappeared.
The world is your oyster.
You can be anything you want to be.
Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
Oh the places you’ll go.
I am a strong believer that too many options can be paralyzing, and I am part of a generation in which the options have become unlimited. You can literally do anything, be anyone, go anywhere, and it’s terrifying to pick only one. The “what ifs” haunt my dreams.
When I was a kid, I used to love those “chose your own ending” mystery books. Remember those? You would get to a point in the story and it would say:
“If you want Susie to open the door of the deserted house, skip to page 47.”
“If you want Susie to head back to the lake, continue to the next page.”
And then, depending on which decision you make for the main character, you get to a different ending. But the reason I used to like these books so much is because after I found out the first fate I had chosen for Susie, I got to go back and re-do it X number of times until I knew how it would end in every possible combination of choices. Turns out I’ve been neurotic for a long time…
Unfortunately, now I’m the main character and I don’t have the slightest idea how to choose a path without knowing what’s at the end of it. Short-term decisions are my specialty. Africa for a few weeks? Yes please! A job that’s only funded for 6 months? Okay! Signing a 12 month lease almost killed me. Seriously, ask Russ.
So, in the spirit of the New Year, I have made a resolution that I am actually really proud of: Be present by living in the moment. I’m trying this new thing where I don’t think so much about long-term outcomes for every decision. I try to register how I’m feeling in that moment – happy or sad – and run with that until it changes.
It may seem basic, but I’ve worked myself into such a complicated web of crazy since I crossed that stage at 21 years old that living in the moment takes a lot of conscious effort.
Five days in and we’re going strong. Now we just need a fork in the road to see if Susie can choose her own ending.
Happy New Year!