Sunday, April 09, 2006


Wow. I think that the only thing that I hate more than than having to make decisions is already having made decisions and then having everything all decided. Last week, for the first time in my life, I had an answer when somebody asked me what I was planning to major in. Having an answer- one word, totally stark and decided, totally calm and final- was one of the freakiest experiences of my life. For a long time, I was able to hide behind the shrug of "No clue" and the excuse that I was a first year. For a long time, I was able to keep my options open, pretend that nothing was closed off or decided. For a long time, I delayed and avoided making simple life decisions because I was too afraid to commit to the implications, because once I chose, I would be stuck with that choice. Forever.

Forever. That's what really scared me. The idea that years and years and years from now, when I'm old and summarizing my life, this decision is going to be one of the things that shaped everything else. That, like Frost in The Road Less Traveled, I would be 'telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence', that this would be the decision that 'has made all the difference'. Bluntly speaking, I wimped out. I pretended that I was still deciding and had to consider more factors, but basically it was a question of not being able to muster up the courage to decide, being paralyzed by the myriads of consequences. It was not, I am afraid, a very efficient way of making a decision, but I was trapped.

The impasse was solved by running out of time. Specifically, I recieved a call on the Thursday of winter break from my sister who currently attends Bar Ilan. It seems that, unlike our earlier assumptions, the deadline for applying to the law-school was in February. Yeah. But, she said, Americans could get away with just about anything, so if I decided that I wanted to go, she would go to Zahava, who's in charge of the over-seas stuff, and get me accepted. She said that she was going to go watch a movie now and when it was over, she would call me back and hear what I had decided. "Talia," I squawked, "this is a major life decision! I can't decide in two hours!" My sister, who is pretty darn wise and knows me just a little too well, replied that I had to decide, that she couldn't make this decision for me. So she gave me until the next morning, and we said goodbye. I hung up the phone, shell-shocked and bug-eyed, and sat there staring at it for a while.

Less than thirty seconds later, my mother called. Heh, heh. Poor Mother. When she innocently picked up the phone to see if I wanted to go to a shiur that afternoon, little did she know that she was about to be bombarded by months and months worth of indecision, angst, whining, pacing, handwringing and so on and so forth. We spent about twenty minutes on the phone, during which I must have walked around the house twenty times, and gone through the arguments for and against the decisions about as often. Mother, because she happens to be a saint, was scrupulously careful not to influence my decision, not to prod me in either direction, not to give me any handholds or excuses to foist the decision off to somebody else. I had, in fact, no idea which side she favored until after my decision was reached.

It was not a pleasant twenty minutes for me, either. About halfway through, I realized that the enormity of the decision was paralyzing me. Once identified, the problem could be grappled with. Over the course of those incoherent twenty minutes, I decided that all life decisions are major, that I can't live in fear of what might be, that nothing I decide is going to commit me to anything for life, that I must have the guts to go with what seems right now, that what I decide will shape my life and I should use this opportunity to shape it, that nothing is ever going to be certain, that I'm sick and tired of being indecisive, that I was going to for it- "full speed ahead and darn the torpedoes".

And so that was that. All decided. My major, my profession, the country I would live in. Just like that. I hung up the phone, grabbed some lunch, went to the shiur. I was curiously numb. I sounded confident and intelligent while informing friends and family. I didn't replay the decision. I slept perfectly well Thursday night. The sensation lasted through the weekend and a couple of days into the next quarter, after which it fell apart entirely and I went back to be a nervous wreck, now with the idea of living with the decision that I had made. But at least it was fear that would no longer interfere with getting things done, since it is already decided. Still, it freaks me out every time I casually talk to someone at the Hillel about my plans, every time I explain why I'm not going to be here next year, and, most of all, every time that somebody asks me what I'm majoring in. Because, for the longest time, that was my dike, my defense about the bigness and scariness of the world. Oh sure, said my subconscious, I may be big and grown-up and in college, but it's not like I actually know what I'm doing with my life yet, so it's all cool. But at some point, you have to take your finger out of that dike and let life rush in, have to decide. And so I did.

And now I stand, drenched in implications, treading water in the flood of futures, conflicted and confused and scared and in denial, but finally and absolutely decided. I can't say that it feels good, but it feels right.


dbs said...

Congratulation, it all sounds great. It’s just a facet of our system that you have to choose a career before you can really know what you want to do. I always had the notion that there is an ideal path to choose and then a bunch of ‘mistakes’, but as I’ve gotten older, I think that perhaps there are just a lot of equally rewarding paths. They’re different from each other, but no one path is necessarily better. Good luck.

Tobie said...


Miri said...

oh Toibele. really, nothing is as final as you think it is. you can still change your mind again, a year from now. but if it feels right, that's the most important indicator that it is. so stop giving yourself issues and enjoy that sense of rightness. it doesn't come along every day.