“To the ocean I offered a seed
and its body dissolved it
like time, composing
– From “Offerings” by Howard Altmann
I used to think there were right choices. I was terrified of regret– and I suppose I still am. I have seen people I love haunted by the footsteps that led them in unexpected directions, sometimes what they deem worse circumstances than they ever could have imagined themselves in. They retrace themselves until they are worn thin. Because of this, I’ve sometimes gone a bit overboard. While in some circumstances I can make a decision lightly, often I rally an army of advice. Before I decided on graduate school I must have asked at least 5,000 people what their thoughts were– including the cashier at the grocery store. And at the end of the day, none of it really mattered because I was still going to make the decision I made– to go.
I may have shared this story before, but I will never forget one piece of advice I received when I was in the midst of deciding what I had already decided. My parents’ neighbor was outside and we were catching up. I told her about Columbia and she was thrilled. And so I proceeded to ask her the question I had already asked so many. And she said, “I think you should do it. You know, I was going to get my MBA and I never did. I wish I would have done that.”
I used to think of this story and pat myself on the back for somehow going to graduate school not only for myself but for all the Paula Halls of the world who hadn’t. But really, it was just for me. And I don’t think, at the end of the day, when Paula looks at the life she’s carved for herself, with a beautiful family and home, that she regrets it.
The etymology of the word “choice” is as follows:
- O.E. ceosan “choose, taste, try” (class II strong verb; past tense ceas, pp. coren), from P.Gmc. *keusanan (cf. O.Fris. kiasa, O.S. kiosan, Du. kiezen, O.H.G. kiosan, Ger. kiesen, O.N. kjosa, Goth. kiusan “choose”), from PIE root *geus- “to taste, relish” (see gusto).
I like the root “geus,” which means “to taste, relish.” The idea of tasting life experiences, trying them on for size and hopefully reveling in them.
Lately people have been asking me advice about the “right choice” to make regarding a variety of different scenarios. I’ve been asking myself for advice too. I’m starting to think that the right choice is the choice you make. Because it took that choice to get you to today. I had to meet person A in order to get to point B to make mistake C and have opportunity D. Why can’t it all be right?