Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Create Your Own Story"

As a kid I used to read those "create your own story" books.  At certain points in the story you had to chose between two plot lines and then turn to the appropriate page.  Sometimes the choice you made would cause the story to end abruptly, whereas other choices would lead you to a happy successful ending.  This was a stressful exercise for me.   It felt like too much responsibility and I always ended up looking ahead to make sure the choice I made would be "the right one."  This is probably a good metaphor to how I make decisions in my adult life.  There is that same panicky feeling under the weight of expectation and certainly the same desire to cheat, look ahead, and make sure I pick the right thing.

Similarly, I play the "what if" game a lot of the time.   I was talking to my friend Ryan last night, and he said he would allow himself to ask "what if" until he had to say it three times.  At that point, he felt he could confidently label it a pipe dream.  For example, "what if I had said x that night" followed by "what if when I said that she said y," and finally "what if when she said y we got back together and then got married."  Three "what ifs" probably not going to happen.  Reasonable strategy.  I, in stark contrast, give myself 500 hundred "what ifs" before there is even an inkling in my mind that what I'm aspiring towards might be irrational.

People generally have two distinct attitudes about life; either there is an order, a destiny, which even free will cannot upset or cause you to deviate from or life is a series of cause/effect situations completely determined by our free will.   I do not want to believe the second circumstance, because if there is no one in the driver seat of my own life but me, I am fucked.   I couldn't even create my own story in a book I read in second grade, how can I possibly create my own life?

I've been grappling with this whole concept recently because I am slightly paralyzed with fear at the thought that I am making wrong decisions.  In the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind, one incorrect choice can alter my life irrevocably--so the decision to sign the lease on this apartment vs. that one might be the difference between being successful, happily married and living in the suburbs or dying from a heroin overdose on a smelly mattress in the projects.   Seriously.  So obviously, I cannot chose the wrong one.  

I don't know why I visualize it that way, but for some reason I have the idea that there is a path my life is supposed to follow, and I must follow concrete steps in order to get there.  Except I don't know what they are, and I won't know until I'm on my deathbed and everything turns out to be shitty.   Like I'm baking a cake with no directions but I better fucking figure it out or my cake is going to end in wasted potential, abortion, drug abuse, and general malaise.   That may be a bit of a mixed metaphor. 

But still, I really would prefer if someone else would create my story for me.  It's 2012, I'm all about outsourcing.

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