In homage to the timeless question: ‘WHAT IF?’
January 10, 2012 § 3 Comments
I am perfectly aware that in the course of our days, we constantly negotiate and re-negotiate our present in order to influence our future happiness. I know this – we make decisions then we change them. We make little choices throughout the day as to what colour undies to wear, what to have for lunch, which movie to watch. And then we make the bigger decisions that take significant time and effort, maybe a period of soul-searching. Or two. I know all that and yet it takes me by surprise when I am faced with big decisions that need to be made every other day, that I’m starting to laugh at the great cosmic joke that I feel like I’ve been thrown into.
A few days after I had reconciled myself to my (psychological) gap year, straight after I had decided, committed to this plan of a non-plan, the Universe has decided to throw a monkey wrench into my plans (or at me, it feels like, a little). Now the decision is whether to duck and avoid getting hit by said monkey wrench, or stand still and take it like a man.
I’ve been accepted into a fourth year post-graduate degree – something I applied for and thought I hadn’t gotten into, much to my relief. I received an e-mail this morning telling me that I had, indeed, been accepted. Yay. Or not. For all that getting into this course means, it was the saddest bit of news I heard all day.
Just as I was cleaning up, picking up the pieces that I had strewn around myself, I am torn once again – between certainty and an unknown future, between happiness and something that is not.
I was crying over an ad the other day because the message resonated so much, because I felt like it spoke to me directly. It was a hundred year old man telling me that life is short and ‘Happiness is [my] birthright’ and to ‘find what will make [me] happy.’ I truly felt that it was the fates giving me a pat on the shoulder for my truly ingenious plan of taking a break, to be able to find my happiness. In light of recent events, I now question how far to take the old man’s advice. After feeling such magical inspiration that it filled me to the ends of the strands of my hair, I am disappointed that I’ve been awoken to crude reality and the necessity for scepticism. How do you determine which happiness is fleeting, which is permanent? What if you go down one road, chasing after the little blue bunny of happiness only to find that it was only an illusion after all?
Translation: I’m Lolo Mario and in my 100 years of life, I’ve been lucky. Lucky to have been born like you, to have friends and family, to live a happy life to this day. You have bene born in challenging times. The world is a big place. It’s so easy to get lost. To guide you, my advice is simple: Go find what makes you happy. Time flies by so fast, don’t waste it on nonsense. And no matter where you end up, don’t forget where you came from. Looking back on all my years, I am grateful for every moment spent with my friends and family. Now I can see that 100 years is not nearly enough time to spend with them. Happiness is your birthright. Your friends and family will help you find it.
In an instant, every cell in my body tells me to run from more schooling as fast as I can. This is the time for freedom, for being young and free, for seeing the world and experiencing new things, and haven’t I been in school long enough anyway? Isn’t almost two decades of formal education enough already? Haven’t I had enough already? The immediate and resounding answer of the heart is – YES. I want to learn from life now. I think I’m ready. On the other hand, am I ready? Really? What if my heart wants this in the here and now but tomorrow? Or the day after?
One of the worse things in all this is being unable to trust yourself when it comes to the things you want and the choices you make. I disappoint myself when I think of how truly fickle my heart can be. In the span of five years, I’ve chosen and abandoned three careers. The younger me would give me a pretty healthy head slap (or at least a derisive scoff) if she could see the indecisive me now. The difficulty in making these decisions is that I’m unsure even of what I want. I know it’s general happiness, as per the old man’s sage advice, yes, but how??? How do I know this is what I want (or for the matter, what I DO NOT want) for now and always?
I’m sure that I don’t want to continue with psychology NOW. How do I know I won’t tomorrow?
The sensible thing is to take the offer. It’s prestigious and top-rank; it’s both an honour and a privilege to be asked. Last year, they took in 70 students out of 900 applicants from all over the country. That’s an acceptance rate of 7.78%. I made the choice of university based on prestige. I could have gone to another university where I would’ve been thrown into smaller, more constant classes as opposed to the broad sprawling degree I signed up for in which I found (unsure) footing only at the very end. Back in first year, I personified uni as my rich, absent husband who could give me everything I ever wanted but would never be able to give me what I needed. On the other hand, after three years, I have become fluent in a foreign language, attained a world-class degree, have the best university in the state on my CV. But is that enough? Really? Continuing education with them is no doubt a boon. It’s an opportunity, yes. But the chance to be one of the wives of a wealthy sheikh is an opportunity too, but that doesn’t mean one should necessarily take it.
On the other (other) hand, it is both an advantage and a necessary first step in this field should I choose to pursue it and go all the way. But I probably won’t, since my heart isn’t in it. Choosing this is something akin to a bitter pill that I’ll swallow for an illness that I may or may not have, I may or may not ever get.
But the question of questions still remains – what if I did? Do I foresee the risk of catching some tropical jungle virus years from now and take the pill? Or do I refuse it and hope against hope that I never have to walk in the dense forests of the Amazon?
And I know I’m extremely EXTREMELY lucky to have a choice, choices to be exact, I’m eternally grateful. It’s just that seemingly endless choice can be a bitch sometimes.
We have no trouble anticipating the advantages that freedom may provide, but we seem blind to the joys it can undermine. – Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness
I was blind, now I see. And WOW, how I see.