Tuesday, March 17, 2009

the undecided life

Last night, I went to barnes and nobles, with my birthday gift card in hand, intending to purchase a week’s worth of books. I’m usually quite cheap about books, since I read in mass, sometimes devouring three or four books per week, I tend to favor Strands for purchases, the $1 book section at that, and  half price books when I feel a little fancy. But whenever I’m given a gift card, I’m like a kid in a candy store, justifying all extraneous purchase by the minus gift card transaction. 

So, I decided to get myself five books in one outing, all books that I meant to read long ago, but never quite got around to buying. On my train ride back, I started reading the first of them, Benjamin Kunkel’s Indecision.

When this book came out, some criticized it as trying too hard to define the quarter-life crises of a lazy generation.  

When this book came out, I had yet to be in the midst of such a state.

I was still safely nuzzled in the beer drenched blanket that is college life, I wasn’t particularly interested at the time, but now that, as of this month, I’m actually 24, and inching ever closer to 25, I wanted to see if his 20-something apathy was anything like my own.

So far, the book hits close to home. If Dwight was a female, I’d probably be him. I too have lucked into more decisions then I have made. It’s a problem I’ve had my whole life. If I had not been blessed with some natural talents, I'd be a perpetual blob,  on the couch forever, in an undulating state of torpor (as my roommate named it.)

And I've always been this way. I don't remember much of my childhood, I think it gets lost somewhere between Nick at Nite and sweet valley high. But I do have a few distinct memories, and the one that always sticks with me is a day at Payless.  

My mom takes me out to buy keds: my choice she says. I had to make one of my first "big decisions." Did I want the white ones, or the black ones, or the ones with the flowered patterns? I couldn’t do it. See, the white one's were so perfect for summer, and the black ones I couldn't get dirty so they  were practical, I guess. But flower ones well they had flowers. So I just stood there and cried till I got all three. That has been me, all my life.

Every decision I make, I wonder what if there’s another way, and always a better way. I regret everything, it’s a terrible trait. Often I’ll go along with things, seeming to be laid back, while in actuality avoiding choosing my own path. I can’t opt in and I can’t opt out, I follow whatever path is set before me, choosing the lesser of two evils, rather than making hard choices.

So, yes, I am Dwight. I don’t like to commit to anything, but I also don’t like to end anything, it’s an attitude I've applied to everything in life. The wrong decision is incredibly frightening to me, so I never fully commit, holding back in any way that I can, always giving just enough, and trying just hard enough to get by.

Two nights ago, I finally got around to watching Revolutionary Road, at first glance, modern times seem comparatively great, there isn't, especially in New York, an expected path. There is no set life, no hegemonic force pushing us into conformity. In theory, we have all these years to make choices and live free, and for ourselves. But even with the choice available, it's always more comfortable not to make the choice. Things aren't that different.  So not everyone makes the decision. I don’t make it.

I once went to a fortune-teller who read my palm and told me I'd have a jeweled life, she saw almost no hardship, no pain. She said she's never seen a hand that indicated a life that would come so easily, fall into place so easily. Of course, I thought, my life has been easy, and spared of hardship, that's what happens when you don't have the guts to make the wrong decision. Hard choices come from hardship. It's easier to let things fall into place, rather then live in the pursuit.

In the book, Dwight is given a chance to take a pill to cure indecision. If I could make one decision, I would take that pill. And I would take the heartbreak,  the failure and the endless mistakes, that it would entail, rather then be in this constant state of stuck in the middle.

But, what if there is no pill?


  1. I would love to have that pill...oh god would I! When I made the decision to separate from my husband - he accused me of going through a quarter-life crisis. . .the more research I did, the more I found out that a lot of people are feeling what I am. . .and this book is on my list to read...

  2. I think we might be the same person. I feel like there are times I've definitely not had the guts to make the hard decision, and I think I've suffered for it. I also regret everything. The few things I have committed to, though, have been worth it so far.

  3. Hi, are you my long lost twin?