My freshman year of college, I attended The University of Chicago. Just weeks before packing up and shipping out, a friend's dad looked me in the eye and said: you're not going to like it there. It's not the right fit for you.
I remember looking at him mostly confused and completely unsure of what to say.
As it turns out, he was right. By spring break, I realized I needed to transfer. I loved my friends. I loved being on the swim team. But the school, on the whole, wasn't right for me. As I processed my paperwork and made plans to begin at Indiana in the fall, his words haunted me. Did everyone but me know this wasn't right all along? I wondered. Was it so obvious that I'd made the wrong choice? Should I be embarrassed that I'd made a mistake?
What I couldn't see then that I know now is that starting there wasn't a mistake at all. It wasn't the wrong choice. It was the right choice based on the information I had at the time.
It was one that brought me amazing friendships and taught me a lot about how I like to learn and what I value. It also was the first time in my life that I experienced true sadness, which, although difficult, helped me develop as an adult.
Sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to make the right choice that we end up paralyzed. Sometimes, the only wrong choice is inaction. One thing I know for sure is that absolutely nothing in life is wasted. Even the most wrong choices can be redeemed if we choose to learn and grow from them.
Lately I've been looking at decisions as arrows. Every single one moves us in a direction. Instead of worrying so much about the finality or the rightness of them, what if we just asked ourselves what would be next if we were to follow that arrow?
We put so much pressure ourselves to make the right decisions all of the time, but what if we looked at each one, not as a final answer, but as a single stepping stone, trusting the next one will appear when we need it to? It becomes less about right and wrong and more about where we want to go.
When I quit my job, I knew it was the right choice at the time. The scary thing, though, was that I wasn't totally sure what was next. I knew quitting was a necessary step and would serve as a bridge to something. But I didn't know where I was going. I didn't know where that bridge would lead at all. As it turns out, quitting was the bridge that led me to The Letter Project. And, in a few years, it may turn out that The Letter Project is a bridge to something else entirely.
My brother once told me that getting a tattoo made him realize he was taking life too seriously. He was so worried about getting the wrong tattoo - about messing it up and it being on his skin forever. It revealed to him how much pressure he was putting on himself to be perfect in his choices, because he was terrified of making a mistake.
I suppose one could argue that a tattoo is rather final, but his insight meant a lot to me at the time. How risk averse am I and is that aversion keeping me still?
It reminds me of a quote I read once, which, embedded in it says: buy the ticket, take the ride. The rest of the quote doesn't mean much to me, but I always think of this when I feel stuck in a decision. Just buy the ticket. Take the ride. Take a chance on yourself. Trust your gut. See where you end up. You might be surprised by how far you go.