On Second Guessing Ourselves
by Robin Criscuolo
My generation is more than a little fucked. Almost all the early twenty-somethings I know feel lost and directionless much of the time. We bounce back and forth between ideas and reality, awash in a sea of feelings and doubts, triumphs and doubts, doubts and more doubts. Decisions loom large and feel momentous. A friend of mine is in knots over a decision whether to move or not. Another frets over whether to quit a job or not. I experience mental anguish for several days over whether to end a relationship. I could name many more examples, but if you are a twenty-something yourself, you can just pull from your own personal supply of dilemmas, and if you are beyond this stage in years and experience, I don’t want to bore you with the endless foibles of youth. If you are honest, I’m sure you can recall.
There are so many things in life: people, trees, animals, and God; little fiddly details to be worried over and life’s work and small decisions and big decisions, and what struck me this morning as I pushed myself up on my elbow in bed and looked groggily at the day was this: maybe they are all really the same size. Maybe the ones like quitting a job, moving, or ending a relationship are no more to be agonized and fussed over than which flavor of ice cream to chose at the ice cream counter. And yet, even there, last week, I hovered before the frosty, humming case, debating, thinking, analyzing: which flavor will make my life consummately perfect for the evening? I tasted many samples on little wooden paddles, trying to get a sense of which was best. But the analysis was short. When I quit thinking and listened to my body (namely my tongue and stomach in this case), it knew. It knew what it longed to experience. And so I chose (a split scoop of Pineapple-Mango and Jack’s Cayenne Cocoa Nut Butter) and was happy with what I was suddenly slurping up off my sugar cone. I was no longer thinking that maybe if I had chosen Grasshopper or Chocolate, then I would be happier, enjoying myself more. It didn’t matter. Enjoying myself enough in the moment, I did not look back and second-guess the choice. Could this method of choosing work with other situations that seem larger? Could it be the reality that all choices are created equal and that each turn we take, each person, place or thing we reach for or don’t, has an equal impact on the course of our lives? We can make any of them into as big a deal as we want; could it be we can also choose the opposite? Maybe we choose as best we can and God takes care of the rest.
My friend will soon decide to move or not, and perhaps neither will be The Wrong Choice. My other friend decided to quit her job to take care of her health. I experienced my mental anguish for several days and then ended the relationship. (For me, this was an improvement over the usual several months.) We can stick our tongues into as many sample flavors as we like, but in the end that’s just stalling. In the end, we choose, not by comparison and analysis, but because something just does or doesn’t feel right. And while we can’t fully explain our motivation, after making a choice, it seems that we don’t need to explain fully after all. To my friends (and there are a few of you), for whom decision making is a straightforward and simple affair, to be fretted over no more than whether to stretch first in the morning or rub your eyes, I salute you. And for those of us who go into a tizzy which escalates into a crisis which eventually resolves and we continue on our confused way, weaving about like a drunk insect, I salute us all the more. Those of us who spend hours spinning anxiously in our minds over some choice that we have already made or have yet to make, we have hope. We are reaching the tipping point of our agony, and we are good at nothing if not being unsatisfied and seeking new answers. We are good at extremes, and for my friends and I, no matter what we choose, the future will be extremely interesting. And none of us are alone.