In 2003 my friend Ray turned 35. He was watching a lot of Sex And The City at the time and really identified with Carrie Bradshaw turning 35 and all the angst as well. So I decide to write him a little piece as a present. Just image Carrie banging away at her laptop as you read this.
Has this happened to you? It’s 3:00am and you have just smoked pot and now 20 minutes have passed and you are at the 7/11 staring into the ice-cream freezer. “Chocolate Fudge Cookie Dough or Cappuccino Crunch? Oh wait! French Vanilla?” Or worse it is 3:00pm and you are at Baskin-Robbins with thirty-one ways to mind-fuck yourself. Sowing the ice crystals of self-doubt and confusion in a garden called entropy.
Choices. They suck and not in that good way a man would want them to suck. But maybe it is not so much that choices suck but it seems I am making some really crap choices. For the longest while I have found my choice making to be on autopilot. But then if something is on autopilot there are not that many choices being made. Confusion!
Turning 35 years old seems to up the wattage shining on one’s choices or lack thereof. The number chills like a harbinger of doom, a milestone that feels like a millstone around the neck. Is life half over? Have I made poor choices so far? Do I get a few more ops to make better choices? But scarier yet, do I have the maturity to make the better choices?
Maybe it is not so much poor choices but rather easy choices. Hard choices often involve a delaying of gratification. Maybe that is the hurdle that keeps tripping. Maybe I equate easy with wrong and hard with good?
We are always afraid to make the wrong choice. But who said there is any such thing as a wrong choice. Sure choosing to step off the curb ignoring the “Don’t Walk” sign could be seen as the wrong choice. I would venture to say that it has nothing to do with right or wrong but it was a poor choice from the variables available. Is this the crux of the choice angst? The fear that we will make the wrong choice? Is some group of “choice police” ready to pounce upon us and truss us up in the town square where all the “right choosers” get to laugh and mock us? Maybe that does happen psychologically every time someone says, “How could you?” or “What were you thinking?” We just do not want to be on that side of the conversation.
But far more insidious than any town square ridicule is the inner turmoil of our own thoughts. It is so easy to get into the game of second-guessing every move on the chessboard of life. And that makes for a long and boring play. Maybe the challenge is to play the game with passion and make as many choices as possible. So what if a choice turns out to be poor? Make another one. See that is another side to this dilemma. We feel that every choice must be a forever. We have no appreciation for the possibility that the circumstances of a choice may change and we may want to do something different. Why is it that every choice demands a lifetime commitment? We give up our freedom.
Free will is not so much about humans being able to do anything they bloody well want, but so much more about their ability to choose from a variety of options. We have to let ourselves be free to make a wrong choice.
Sure this is easy to do when it is a simple case of getting tired of chocolate and deciding it is time for the French Vanilla. It gets a little weightier when it comes to purchasing a house, changing a job, or finding a mate. These choices seem to have a finality about them that scares the bejeebus out of us. But houses do get sold and new ones purchased, jobs end and new ones start, and yes sometimes relationships end and new ones start.
The higher on the finitude scale we place a choice, the more anxiety about changing our choice. But this is the nature of life. Someone chose to eat the apple, someone chose to betray a friend for 30 pieces of silver, and someone chose to be rather than not to be. Poor choices all? By the same yardstick a man chose to strive a little further to reach a mountain summit, a woman chose to leave her companions and live among lepers, and a man chose to live a dream of racial equality. Good choices all? Choices have to be made on their own merits, not in the shadows of disappointments nor with the belief that a ball and chain is sold with each one.
Maybe if we spend less time agonizing over our choices and more time living them our days would be filled with action instead of inaction. Triple Brownie Surprise or Cappuccino Crunch. Hmmm which one?