By Natalie Comfort
Everyday, from the moment I wake up to when I fall asleep, I am bombarded with hundreds of decisions to make. Some trivial, some important. And with those decisions come a nearly infinite amount of options. In the morning, I wonder if I should park in the lot closest to my first class or to my last class. Do I want to take the 15 minute walk now or later? Or should I just be happy to get any spot at all after I leave late and spend an hour in traffic?
Don’t even get me started on menus. Makes my head spin. If there are more than six different options, forget it. How am I supposed to know which two-seasoning combo I’d prefer with my chicken? I’ll take whatever the person next to me is getting. But these are minor choices. So I reassure myself that they don’t matter much. After all, it won't affect my entire life, right?
Honestly, I’d always thought the larger choices in life would be more difficult, but at least there are a lot more obviously wrong choices in those departments. If I can’t decide what to do, I will at least have a general idea of what I most definitely shouldn’t do. It’s a bit like if you can’t be first, you can at least make sure you’re not last. If I can’t make the best choice, I can make sure I’m not driving myself towards catastrophe at every turn. The problem with small choices is you have no idea of knowing whether a small choice might be important until it’s much too late to go back and revise it.
Also, unlike little choices, people have opinions on your life-altering choices, so at least there’s some guidance there. It may not be the highest quality guidance, but something is better than nothing. Your high school counselor thinks you should be an engineer because you didn’t totally fail your stats class. Your coworker is thoroughly convinced you should be an entertainer of some kind, since you made a joke that made her laugh once. The mother of the child you’ve watched at daycare thinks you would make a great teacher. Nobody cares whether I order the chicken or shrimp scampi at Olive Garden. I mean, I hardly even care.
Even the bad advice can be helpful in some way, at least you have a direction to go in and then you can redirect later. And the consequences of larger decisions are easier to understand. They are logical in some way so if you want to work in a bank you would take an internship… in a bank. If you want to save a thousand dollars over the next three months, well, you just do the math. Small choices are a roll of a bagful of dice. You never know what you might end up with.
I can’t help but think about how some little choices have effects that can multiply into massive effects over time. I can’t keep track of all the times an adult over the age of 40 has told me how some happenstance occurrence introduced them to their lifelong partner or the career of their dreams. It’s lovely to hear, almost inspiring, until you think about what would have happened if they weren’t reading their girlfriend’s favorite author in the metro.
If that feels overwhelming already, we’ve forgotten to consider how those decisions will then open up another branch of decisions, and so on into infinity. Years from now, I could be sitting in a park somewhere, thinking that if I hadn’t missed my exit on the 405 that one fateful day in April 2022, I could be in a completely different place right now. I don’t want that type of responsibility on my shoulders. So maybe I’ll just flip a coin, or spin a wheel, or go to psychic. It probably won’t matter much in the long run anyway, not that there would be any way of knowing if it did.