We’ve all been in situations that require a tough decision. And often times what’s at the root of a decision’s toughness is our inability to look ahead and be sure that we’re making the right choice. After all, we can’t predict the future or see how different options pan out ahead of time. We can make our best guesses based on fact and experience. We have to be reasonable, make pro/con lists, ask for advice, sleep on it, go with our guts, etc. But absolute certainty can’t really be a factor when going into the unknown.
"You cannot find peace by avoiding life." - Virginia WoolfTweet It!
I (along with my husband Colin and our cat Seymour) recently made the decision to make a pretty serious and literal move. We’re walking, or rather driving, away from our home in New Jersey for a fresh beginning in Colorado. This is something we’d discussed at different times and phases in our relationship and was something we always knew was on the future horizon. Still, a lot of time can go by before those hypothetical situations can become reality. Nothing’s really going to just happen unless you do something to get the process started, right? So when we decided to be proactive and move this situation from a maybe-someday conversation to a yes-let’s-make-this-happen action, something weird happened. I found myself suddenly wondering, “Wait. Is this the right thing to do?”
I think there are a couple of reasons why it’s natural to want to backtrack on a big decision once it’s made. For one, change is really, really hard. Even when it’s exciting, it’s also scary and confusing and kind of stressful. Depending on the decision you’re making, there are a lot of outside factors, to-do’s and people who will be affected. Sometimes it’s easier to walk away from doing something important because we have no idea how to make it happen or to do the work. I get it. And I recognized that tendency in myself as soon as I let the doubt start to creep in: But what if it’s even harder than we thought? What if it’s not as good as we hoped it would be? What if I can’t make any friends? What if it’s really, really lonely?
“I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” - Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful ThingsTweet It!
While it’s totally valid to recognize your fears, it’s also important not to let your life be dictated by them. And I think there’s something to be said for not hanging all your hopes on one decision. Yes, it might end up being a super positive thing that brings you even more than you imagined. But it also might just be so-so. You might have to change your mind, again. You might have to reconsider your options. Some might call this pessimistic, but I prefer to categorize it as Taking The Pressure Off. If you’ve done a lot of thinking and drawn your best conclusions, the best thing to do is move forward and just see how it goes.
Believe me, I’m not giving advice on how to stick to your guns or always make a flawless decision about your life. It’s never that simple, and coming to terms with that is part of what makes it so exciting. Even when one piece of the puzzle is known, so much of it still remains a mystery. We don’t always know what we’re building until it’s almost done. And sometimes we finish and realize that we have to start all over, fresh from the ground up.
So this is a change that terrifies me as much as it thrills me. It saddens me as much as it elates me. I’ve been checking off my list of things to do before moving day, and every time I finish one thing I remember another that still has to be done. It’s all part of the bigger picture of my life. And even though changes will happen that you don’t choose, I think it’s important to make sure that you get a say in some of the big stuff. Don’t let life just be something that happens to you. Let it be something that you create, something you take part in shaping.
In that sense, despite what’s still to come that will surprise me, I feel a radical sense of calm in the midst of chaos. While everything in my world is being packed into boxes and I’m watching a chapter of my life come to a rapid close, sometimes it feels really spot-on. Other days, my doubts get the best of me. Some days I can’t stop making plans, and others I don’t know where to start. I don’t always know if it’s the right thing to do. I’m excited. I’m scared. I know what I’m giving up and I don’t know what I’ll be getting yet. But I’m excited to find out.
- Worried About What You're Not Doing via zenhabits
- The Ghost Ship That Didn't Carry Us via The Rumpus
- "The Blue House" by Tomas Tranströmer
Helen Williams is the Community Love Director at Holstee. She is passionate about cooking and writing which pair well together on her vegetarian food blog, green girl eats. She's strives, every day, to be less sorry.
Love to write?
Every month we select at few writers to help us explore what it means to live a life of reflection and intention. Reach out to Helen, our editor at Helen.W@holstee.com to learn more