Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about choices.
When I was younger, I felt like a path lay out before me that I walked down pretty easily and without questioning. I went to school. I did well. I went to college. I did well there too. There were worries and cares in those days, of course, but underneath I felt a forward momentum carrying me along.
In your twenties, this changes. The choices somehow become real and weighted and big. It’s as if that easy, laid out path that you were walking on suddenly splinters off into a million directions. It does not feel like Robert Frost’s two roads diverging; it feels like a superhighway of on-ramps and off-ramps and illegal U-turns.
I have always been someone who struggles with trying to make “the right choice.” I want to do what will work out absolutely perfectly and obsess over the details before I take a step. But do we really know what’s going to happen? Not really. We don’t know until we’ve done it and are in it, experiencing all that comes.
What I’m coming to realize is this: I think it’s more about making the honest choice, not the “right” one.
What is the decision that calls to you most strongly — even if it’s just a faint whisper? It can be hard to hear. But I can pretty clearly point to times in my life when I was acting from that honest place and when I wasn’t — when I let the other noise get to me, and when I heard me above it.
My friend Caitlin G. introduced me to a wonderful writer the other day that has a column called “Dear Sugar” (I never thought I’d be into an advice column but there’s a genuine grace about her that I love). A man writes in about struggling with the decision of whether or not to have a child. He always thought that he would “just know” but now he’s 40, his wife’s 40, and they still don’t.
She gives some beautiful thought to his dilemma but the part that really got me was when she talked about this poem by Tomas Transtromer. In it, a man stands in the woods and looks back at his house. He sees the life he has but also sees the lives he hasn’t had.
The man concludes: “Without really knowing, we divine; our life has a sister ship, following quite another route.”
In the end, I think it comes down to acceptance — to accept your sister ship of could’ve beens for what they are: not you, not your life. “I could’ve stayed and been his wife but didn’t.” “I could’ve made a name for myself in that field but didn’t.” It is so much easier to accept these losses when they comes from honest choices.
So am I still on the superhighway? Yup. I think that’s kinda how it goes from here on out. Choices. But I’ve found a lane and am more certain about my direction than I have been in a long time.