How I decided to stop letting decisions consume me (& ruin my life)
Each day, we wake up feeling the impacts of decisions we’ve made.
Today, I woke up tired & with a horrible stomach ache, because last night I decided to eat a big dinner, drink beers, & have a pint of ice cream (my kryptonite) to top it off, shortly before shutting my eyes for ~6 hours, ahead of a 5:30am wakeup call to play basketball. Poor decisions. Most days, I wake up energized to go to a workplace I love, full of intelligent, kind, energetic, passionate, & interesting people — because I decided to listen to AJ & read TechCrunch in 2007 & join Twitter in 2008 & work for him & his brother Gary in 2009. Good decisions.
Honestly, I’ve always been bad at making decisions. My mom has joked (& when I say “joked” I mean “rolled her eyes & scoffed”) that when I was little & would nearly have a panic attack deciding between a meatball sandwich or an Italian hoagie at Wawa. Mmmm, Wawa. Just think about when it came to (arguably) more important things like… which high school / college to go. I’ll get to that in a minute.
What’s always haunted me about decisions is the scale & the possibilities.
We all have an infinite amount of alternate realities, generally contingent on how we choose to live our own lives — on the tens of thousands of decisions we make each day.
When I was in eighth grade, I was deciding between the #1 & #2 public high schools in the city. Both were excellent. One was smaller, closer to home, & the best public high school in the state. It didn’t have as many sports options but it excelled academically & it was more of a known. The other was six times the first’s size, with more of a social life, more sports — definitely the “cooler” of the two. I chose the larger, cooler high school last-minute because more of my friends were doing the same. I didn’t push myself with sports, which I regret now (although we did dominate tennis & golf while I was on those teams), but was one of the reasons I made the decision I did.
Five years later, I was transferring across the country, from Boston University to the University of Southern California, for a girl I loved.
During my early-to-mid 20’s, I thought a lot about these two decisions, & how they impacted my experiences. I primarily thought a lot about the debt my parents accrued to send me to a private school in California that was offering us half the money BU was. I thought about not even considering the state school, that would have saved my parents a ton of cash. I thought about all of the things they could have done with their money. (All of this despite my parents never flinching. They just wanted to provide opportunities for me, as they do for all of their kids. But seriously, how are 18–19 year-olds left to make these types of decisions, with so much money on the line? Crazy.) I thought a lot about whether I had pushed myself in the right ways. I thought a lot about what my life would have been like had I made different decisions. I became anxious. I became depressed. I let those decisions (& more so the fake alternate realities I created in my head) haunt me. Off & on, for a number of years. For no reason! Pointless, & I knew it, but I couldn’t help it.
Ironically, in my high school yearbook I chose a quote by the honorable George W. Bush:
I think we agree, the past is over.
My mom would often tell me the same message a bit more eloquently, reciting the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
Easier said than done. But it’s something I continued to try to take to heart. & tell myself, repeatedly. Eventually, it’s worked.
Whatever you’re going through, if it happened in the past, just remember that there is only one thing to be done — let it go.
In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, where I was sulking about some bad decisions I’d made, I said, “Live & learn, as they say.” “Just make sense you do that latter,” he replied. When you live & learn, there are no bad decisions — there are only lessons. You & I, if we’re lucky, are going to live long & winding lives. & we’re lucky to be able to make decisions for ourselves.
A few last thoughts:
- The title is misleading. Like anything, this all took work.
- People make decisions for many reasons, often times for very personal reasons based on a lifetime of context that we just don’t have. & who are we to judge?
- The only person that truly knows you, & that has all the context, is you. Don’t fool yourself. Other people only know as much as you’ve given them. You are the only you there is. & be confident in yourself. Confidence & self-awareness goes a long way.
- Be empowered by your decisions. Own your decisions. & always remember that there are more decisions ahead.
I leave you with this. I am happy. I am happy for all the decisions I have made in life, because they have landed me right here, right now. & right now, I am happy.
Side note: What should I get for dinner? I’ve been sitting on Seamless for 20 minutes, & I can’t decide.