Venti? Grande? Syrup? Soy Milk?
Big Mac? Double Cheeseburger?
Black or Blue Jeans?
Leather or Denim?
Boots or Shoes?
Stay single or hook up?
Career A or Career B?
Stay in or go out?
Move here or move there?
Options are endless; from the colour we have our hair, to the colour of our eyes, to the job that we choose, or the lifestyle choices we adhere to. This allows us a lot of liberty but it can also cause us to be overwhelmed at the altar of choice. Most of the time we can successfully choose something (Grande Vanilla Soy Latte, three sweeteners.) However, at crucial points on this journey we call life, we remain stationary because we are fearful of making the wrong choice and sending our lives hurtling toward instability and sadness (we’re a dramatic species, aren’t we?) Or we fear missing out…that singling out one choice means cutting ourselves off from the others forever.
I remember the first time I read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and found this paragraph I was in awe of how she had perfectly summed up my emotions, at the time in my life when I found myself reading it, that I had to go back and read it at least another two times:
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
Over the years, I’ve kept my options open but there have been various times when this has proved to be a disadvantage to my state of mind and general ability to move on in life. For example, I took Sociology at University because I wanted to keep my career options open. If I’d less of an impulsive mind, I ought to have given more contemplation to where I wanted to be – who I wanted to be – and taken a different subject. (FYI, I don’t regret my degree choice at all…personal reasons.) The same with a specialism; I could’ve taken a specialism is Gender studies owing to the amount of feminist modules I’d studied over the course of three years. In the end, I chose not to because I wanted my degree to be neutral. So, instead of graduating with BA (Hons) Sociology with a Specialism in Gender, I just had the Sociology bit. (Now this I do regret.)
Don’t get me wrong; I think there are times and seasons in our lives where keeping our options open is wise. There are, however, occasions when doing so is just plain detrimental. The more stories I hear, and the more I experience life, I recognise that this method of keeping our options open is just a poor disguise for a fear of commitment. We fear commitment because it actually means being held accountable for our choice(s), remaining loyal to whatever we have selected, and being resilient to endure the hard times which inevitably come with any path we decide to walk in life. For example, choosing that job, or committing to that relationship. By remaining on the peripheries of choice and avoiding commitment, we do not have to invest our energy into something and risk it backfiring. There’s something about our fear of vulnerability deep in there. We fear making mistakes when, really, there is victory in the trying and failing as opposed to not trying at all. It takes true courage to come to a crossroads and select only one path to walk after weighing it all up.
And this is the other thing – not making a choice just invites more stress into our lives because our minds will always be divided. No-one can walk two paths at the same time. One example of this is something I do all the damn time without realising – I make a choice to read and then decide to go on my phone for a little bit at the same time. A paragraph here, a scroll of Instagram there. Before I know it I’ve wasted half an hour on bullshit that will be forgotten in the next ten minutes. Just read the fucking book. I’ve turned what should’ve been a peaceful moment, committed to one pursuit, into something unnecessarily stressful because now I’m beating myself up about the whole Instagram thing and don’t understand what’s going on with the characters in my book. Sometimes, having your cake and eating it makes you fucking sick.
You’ll be surprised at how much peace you can create in your life by simply committing to one choice. Saying no is empowering; choosing one path allows you to discover your courage and to fully develop a single choice into something beautiful. You can devote your whole energy into the job, the relationship, the friendship, the house…Instead of spreading yourself so thin trying to decide or trying to do it all. Often, the hardest choice to make is the best one for our lives and our wellbeing – from going to the gym after a hard day at work, to leaving a toxic relationship that brings you down. Just make the choice and be at peace with it. Keeping your options open can sometimes feel like going around, and around, and around on a roundabout…
Just take this parting advice – when the time comes to make a choice, don’t coward out by keeping your options open. Just turn the fuck off and drive down a damn road because you’re just making yourself dizzy. And then, afterwards, just enjoy the feeling of peace that floods your soul because you’ve calmed the raging, restless sea of your hidden indecision.