Making a life-altering decision is one of the most difficult things a person can do. The second most difficult?–waiting for that decision to take effect. I’ve seldom been mistaken for a patient woman. It’s something I’ve made a concerted effort to change over the years. But while I have evolved from someone with a penchant for whipping up batches of cookie dough and grabbing a spoon, unable to wait ten minutes for the oven timer to ding (and also possessing a voracious appetite and lack of discerning palate comparable to that of a particularly undisciplined Labrador), to the kind of person who delights in baking breads that take not hours, but days, it’s not a skill I’ve mastered when it comes to life’s more important events. (Not that dough isn’t important–in fact, it might be my chief joy in this world. I certainly devote an inordinate amount of time and energy to thinking about it, making it, consuming it… I get tunnel vision when there’s a a pan of cinnamon rolls or a nice loaf of bread around. I’ve made three different dough-based meals in the past twenty four hours and it was the highlight of my week, maybe even my month. Though, I suppose that’s not saying much because my life is very, very small and mostly revolves around cleaning up after people and partaking of adult coloring books while high. Still, dough rules. Wait–what was I talking about?)
It’s not so much that I’m dying for the end result of any given decision to transpire–I’m equally impatient whether facing the good, bad, or anything in between–it’s just that I can’t stand living in limbo. The anticipation eats away at me until it’s all I can think about (other than dough) and my mind runs in dizzying circles like a hamster on a wheel. Maybe this is why I haven’t yet definitively said, “I’m going to school, I’m moving to Prescott–it’s certain.” I always qualify any discussion of the future with such noncommittal phrases as I’m pretty sure or most likely. And while my fear of commitment is something of a defining characteristic for me, I think the real issue here is that I have already committed, but I can’t allow myself to say so because once I do the gears are set in motion and I’m left scrambling along in that hamster wheel until moving day arrives.
Without having officially set anything in motion, my mind and my laptop are already filling with endless to-do lists and notes jotted down in the middle of the night after waking in a blind-panic. Sign up for Amazon Prime–if you end up moving. Don’t forget to fill out that health insurance waiver–if you decide to attend. Buy lots of alcohol–no qualification necessary, just buy lots of alcohol. Make sure your new apartment has decent counters for working with dough and a solid oven–should it come to that. This obsessive rumination is only mildly tempered by my stubborn insistence on continuing to frame things as hypothetical. I really ought to quit mucking about in the shallows and dive in–transform these thoughts and lists into actions–but despite that being the courageous and more productive option, I find myself continuing to toe the water with no small amount of obstinance and trepidation. I guess it’s a bit like revving your engine at the starting line–sure it’s noisy and chaotic and you know all hell’s about to break lose, but at least for the time being you’re secure in the knowledge that the race, while inevitable, has not yet begun and you can delay the responsibilities of driving (and the prospect of a fiery crash) just a little while longer.
It is for these reasons that I find spontaneity and snap decisions so appealing. If I have time to stop and truly think about a decision, weigh the pros and cons, examine all possible outcomes, sift through the details with a fine-toothed comb, I find myself completely incapacitated by such an abundance of options and uncertainty–I’m incapable of making the decision. However, if I can manage turn off my brain, act on intuition, and make a decision seconds before it comes to fruition, I’m no longer paralyzed by that torturous chasm between decision and action. No forethought or anticipation required. Unfortunately, organizations such as universities don’t really jibe with the whole, “I know it’s the night before term begins, but I’ve just decided to return to school and I’d like to start tomorrowbefore I have the chance to consider all the ways this might possibly go wrong” approach to life.
And it’s not just the worry of something going wrong that prevents me from being decisive. There’s also this nagging fear that I’ll finally settle on one thing, only to discover that there’s something better out there. How can I possibly make an informed and final decision without researching every potential option the universe has to offer? How can I truly know what’s right for me without first taking a stab at omnipotence? But that sounds prohibitively exhausting so maybe it’s best to avoid the dilemma altogether. As you can see, it’s hard to get things done in my world. (I suppose the term FOMO could be employed here, but while succinct and apropos, I find it detestably trendy.)
Whenever I work myself into this frantic, obsessive, indecisive state of anxiety-riddled hamster-wheeldom, it’s best to remind myself of my mom’s sage and oft repeated advice: “You can always quit!” This may not sound like your typical parental advice–it may sound like the irresponsible wisdom of a slacker or a flake, but my mom is no such thing. (Me?–I plead the fifth.) What it really means is that you shouldn’t allow the fear of something not working out prevent you from trying. If it’s not right for you–it’s not a life-sentence. This mantra has saved me time and again when I’ve been paralyzed with indecision, unsure of which way to turn. I invoke it like a magical phrase, an abracadabra, that–poof!-vanishes all those niggling doubts. Just pick a direction! it says, If you choose wrong, you can always 180 it back whence you came. You can always leave school and slink home, reeking of failure with your tail between your legs and your head hung in shame. See? Like magic. No worries at all.
So yes, I’m going to school, I’m moving to Prescott–I said it. All my cards are on the table, no hedging my bets. Now I just have to ride this thing out until August while trying not work myself into a state of panic in the meantime. I’ll try to think of it like a long, slow rise: the end result–the ripe yeasty flavor of a well-proofed dough–is well worth the planning and patience it takes. But who am I kidding?–higher education and the potential for a fulfilling career can’t hold a candle to sweet, delicious bread. Perhaps I should become a baker or, better yet, a competitive eater, instead.