Taking Chances

Where the road goes, no one knows

How do you know if what you’re doing is the “right thing”? How do you know if you’re making the “right” decision? When there is no guidebook on what to do in life, how do you decide? I always say to trust your intuition, trust your gut, but what if the answer still remains unclear? I’ve heard that meditating before making a decision will steer you true, but what if an answer still doesn’t bubble up to the surface?

It’s all too easy to become rendered immobile when thinking of all the possibilities of the future, of what kind of shape your life could take. There’s a kind of pressure that can build when examining the potential pathways, the maybes and could-bes. If I do this, will it lead me to where I want to be? But life isn’t an X + Y = Z equation. Just because I do “this” doesn’t mean that I’ll be left with “that.” So what to do? How to get there?

What I have learned, especially this past week, is that you can only move forward by making a decision, whatever that decision may be, and the only way to make a decision? By taking chances. Taking chances, diving headfirst, throwing caution to the wind, letting go of the doubt and fear and just doing. Doing something, anything, anything but standing still. Standing still at a fork in the road, looking left, looking right, does not enable you to see where the roads will take you. It’s impossible to see where the road goes, where it leads. Not only impossible, but not very exciting. If we could see where the road on the left took us, would the journey be any fun?

I am a person who can all too easily become mired in self-doubt, who can become lost in the endless possible scenarios that stretch out before me. I can become too concerned with the outcome of my decisions, outcomes that are unknowable. I want to make the “right” decision for myself and my life, to take the “right” steps in the “right” direction. I think any recent college graduate can relate. Any human being can relate. I am on the precipice of defining my future, of setting into motion the actions that will shape my life. Though I knew exactly what I wanted to major in, though I took the steps and completed them, now that I have graduated I have discovered that what I want to “do” changes almost every day. I of course want my career to be involved with writing, my passion, but I have so many passions. I love to read and write, but I also love fashion, film, culture, travel, wellness, yoga, food. The list goes on and on. Which passion to pursue? Can I pursue all of them? How do I decide which passions dictate a career and which passions are for myself? Is there a distinction? Should there be?

Since graduating last year, I have been searching. Well, I guess I can say I’ve been searching my whole life, but now I have been searching in earnest. While I was in school I could dream and explore; I had the time. Time. We as human beings are so concerned with time, with the end goal. How many of us feel that time is “running out”? That if we don’t act now, our dreams will slip away? There’s a push-pull dynamic between dreaming and doing, between contemplating and acting. We want to think things through, but when does all the thinking stop? We have to take risks. And yes, risk doesn’t always end in reward. But isn’t that okay? No one ever accomplished anything just sitting on the couch.

But sitting on the couch is safe. Sitting on the couch means blankets, pillows, comfort. Don’t get me wrong, making lists and reading What Color is Your Parachute? is meaningful, it’s action to some degree, but when do we put down the lists and get out there? How are we going to know which decision is “right” unless we just try it? Which will we regret more, what we did or what we didn’t do?

I think a lot of my paralyzing inertia stems from the fact that I actually do regret many of the things that I have done in the past. Not the things I haven’t done, but what I have done. But now, with my drinking days behind me, I can see that all of the things I regret doing are the things I did when I was under the influence of alcohol. I regret the mistakes and the hurt that I caused when I was drinking, when I did indeed throw caution to the wind and ended up making a big mess of my life. These regrets haunt me still, and the self-doubt I’ve carried with me has unavoidably tainted my current decision-making. Am I making the right decision? How can I trust myself? But, to my relief, things are different now. I should trust myself, I can trust myself, because I am no longer pulled under the waves of booze.

I was estranged from my intuition for such a long time that I struggle to know it now. I hear whispers of it, whispers that grow louder each day, but we are not on intimate terms quite yet. So when I was offered an opportunity this week to take steps that may shape my future career, I doubted my decision to take it. Not when I made the decision, but afterwards. I accepted a new internship, which is very exciting, but just one day later I heard that an organization I love is currently hiring and I was encouraged by a friend who works there to apply. What have I done? I thought. I had just accepted an unpaid position elsewhere, a position that could lead to gainful employment down the road, but the outcome remains unclear. Had I jumped the gun? Should I turn it down and apply for the paid position?

Though my mind was a whirlwind of doubt and second-guessing, I now believe that I made the right decision. How? Because I took a chance. Because something made me apply for the internship, to take action. Something brought me to here, to where I am right now. And though I don’t know what the future holds, none of us do.

I wish you a wild, free life.


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