Making decisions is rarely easy — especially for those we know will have a real impact on our future.
I don’t think I’ve ever been certain about any of the meaningful decisions I’ve made. Without exception, I was a little uncertain, a little dubious or outright terrified.
All the more so because everyone else seemed to know what they were doing. Everyone around me seemed to have a plan, whereas I was just choosing paths at random.
I wasn’t sure about starting a blog at 13. I wasn’t sure about publishing any of my most successful posts. I wasn’t sure about going to college at 16 instead of staying on at school. I wasn’t sure about leaving university last year to focus on learning. I wasn’t sure about any of the pitches that led to incredible work. I wasn’t sure about moving to London, or getting a cat, or interviewing for my current job. All proved to be among the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Making decisions isn’t always as simple as ‘fuck yes or no’, a mantra that seems to be everywhere.
It’s reflective of the idea that there’s such a thing as the right decision, the right path in life, and if we deviate from it we’re doomed to failure and misery.
But we don’t always get an overwhelming sense that there even is a perfect choice.
Sometimes we go with what feels right-ish. There’s no choir of angels descending as we make up our minds. No fireworks, no game show green flashing lights.
Looking back, we’ve nothing to compare it to. We don’t get a control group. We do get to embrace the benefits of making decisions fast and viewing the outcomes as information to inform future choices, not as something final.
I don’t particularly believe that there’s such a thing as the perfect partner, the perfect home, the perfect job, or anything like that. How many couples do you know who met as housemates? Is it really believable that so many people just happened to end up living with the right person?
Or is it more believable to suggest that we make decisions, then make them right?
Since I turned 20, I’ve been gripped by a maddening fear that I’m going to waste my twenties somehow: that I’m going to regret working too hard or not hard enough or not having enough fun or having too much fun. It’s maddening because I waste so much time worrying about wasting time and never know which direction to go.
So, at some point, I started constantly asking people older than me if they regret any of the decisions they made at my age, and what they wish they’d done differently.
The answer is never what I expected. Most people wish they’d travelled more (even those who travelled a lot), maybe approached relationships a bit better, but otherwise, there’s not much they’d want to change. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be where they are now.
Looking back on my teens, I feel the same — sure, I made a lot of terrible decisions, they’ve just lost their seriousness over time.
With time, we lose track of the bad and just hold onto the good. Our decisions matter less than how we react to what comes after.