coin tosses aside

For the past year I devoted much of my spare time to exploring career paths – going so far as taking the LSATs – twice, and dropping several hundred dollars on applications to law schools and public policy programs across the country – only to wind up sitting face to face with my future over cokes and cheeseburgers in a sports bar in Menlo Park. There I discovered it was none of the options on the table, but the one tapping loudly on the door I kept trying to ignore.

I am a firm believer in listening to yourself – whether it’s your body or your mind or your heart. Physically, it’s easy to tell when something is wrong. You exhibit symptoms you can feel or see or measure. And you often know the steps you need to take to heal. Typically the cure is just rest, clear liquids and a bit of waiting. The other two are much more difficult to diagnose and treat. That’s why there is so much support for research into the science of decision-making. Imagine the profit for the marketing world to know just what makes you tick and how you rationalize purchases. Imagine the edge politicians get by knowing what issues grab your attention and heartstrings and which will get you to show up on Election Day.

I struggle with the process of decision-making. It’s an emotionally exhausting endeavor I ignore for awhile. Instead I go for some long runs and think about thinking about it. I talk out my options with anyone who will listen. I scan web sites in search of information and an answer. I never write lists weighing my options – that is just not how I organize my thoughts. For me, putting a pen to the page is something you do when you know what you’re going to say, when you know what you’re going to do. It’s final.

Secretly, I’ve always wanted a little old man to approach me on the street and tell me what to do then disappear into the darkness from where he came. Am I looking for God to personally deliver the answer to me? Maybe. It’s comforting to think a divine intervention could occur. But it hasn’t happened yet so I’m stuck making my own decisions for the time being. Besides, I’m not all that comfortable banking my future on what could simply be the rantings of a person off their meds in the Tenderloin.

After coming to my final decision four times, (and confirming the last on a coin toss 3-0), I suffered a panic attack after having lunch with my former editor last week. I sat across from her and realized I was making the safe choice. And that’s not how I operate. I arrive at a decision based on what I want to happen, not what I am afraid will. That’s why I voted for Obama.  That’s how I wound up moving to California in the first place.

Fear is an important part of the decision-making process. Fear can prevent you from doing dumb things like walking alone at night or picking fights with Yankees fans. But fear can intervene on your behalf and make you do dumb things too, like not confessing how you feel to the boy you adore or going to law school. When I finally removed fear (and money) from the equation and considered my options I realized I was only left with one. Afterwards I called my mom.

“Do you need my permission not to go to law school, she asked?
“No. I think I just needed to hear myself say it aloud,” I said.

So, I spent one year and the equivalent of a trip to Europe to determine that I want to do exactly what I’m already doing. But for real this time.

6 thoughts on “coin tosses aside

  1. I was hoping with time you would figure it out for yourself. You are a wonderful writer; it is your passion. Some people go through life never knowing what they really want to do or what their passion really is. You know that already; so you are ahead of the game! Go out and make your living doing what you love!
    Your Dad and I have always been your biggest cheerleaders and always will be.

  2. Yes…. but sometimes it’s hard to accept what you have when it seemed to fall in your lap so easily. We always want options – and law school was another option. Unfortunately it always takes jumping through a bunch of hoops before you realize you don’t want something.

    On a side note… maybe you also crave knowledge & learning (the process of getting ready for law school). So maybe make sure you add some extra stimulation to your life besides your current “job”.

    Regardless… great news! You don’t have to pay for law school now! 🙂

  3. Decision making is truly one of the toughest things in life. It’s easy to just coast along with the flow, letting others make the decisions for you; then you have to justify living with them; and you can bitch and moan at how unfair the decision was…but you really didn’t make it did you? I have found over the years that the best decisions are not snap ones, but rather the first option that comes to you after learning the facts. Perhaps that is just surgery talking, but if you know the stuff and you have had enough experience, your first choice is the best. That has usually been borne out in test taking as well. Go with your gut. You are a great writer, and I’m very proud to read your writings.
    And no surgeon would wish for another lawyer in this world….

  4. Katherine – you are so wise. by exploring your options you are indeed learning about yourself. sometimes you just need that gut check to determine you haven’t strayed from your path. I liken it doubting yourself when driving. You are pretty sure you’re on the right road, but you keep stopping to the look at the map because something doesn’t feel right. But you keep going and checking and all of a sudden you are no longer lost – even though you never really were.

    Dinosaur – I am so happy you never set any sort of professional expectations for me. I suspect many dads would prefer their child take the more lucrative path over … writing. I am glad you are not one of those dads.

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