Monday, May 23, 2011

deCIDE

My brilliant cousin graduated from UC Berkeley this week with honors, all the while raising my brilliant godbaby, no less. Graduations are rarely interesting to anyone besides the graduates, but this was special. Melissa has worked extremely hard to get where she is today and it was beautiful and inspiring to watch her walk the stage at the Greek Theatre, where we learned to salsa dance to the Gypsy Kings as teenagers. It was a rad, full circle moment to witness.

Aside from the sentimentality of the event, there was also a really compelling keynote speaker, Ryan Lizza, the Washington correspondent for the New Yorker and CAL graduate. He told some impressive stories about his past dozen plus years covering the political scene, including his time with a young Senate hopeful from Illinois who would become our president. He pointed out something I had never considered: the word 'decide' shares the suffix '-cide' with words like 'suicide' and 'homicide,' and means "to cut or kill." He reasoned that this is accurate because when you make a decision about something, you kill all other possible choices. After all, you cannot walk down two different paths at the same time. Some things can be done concurrently, like going to CAL and raising an awesome kid. I would also argue that due to the impermanent nature of life, some killed, unchosen choices may be available later.

Because we don't know what will happen in the future, and if we can ever revisit previous options, it can really pressurize making a clear, decisive choice. Some choices are less challenging, but can become monstrously burdensome when we consider that, on occasion, a seemingly small, innocuous decision completely reshapes our life. Example: over a decade ago when I opted to take the car ride with my mom that resulted in my having a temperamental low back and lasting anxiety around driving that's led me to be a 27 year old non-driver. The mechanisms that make our life work are so very intricate and sometimes seconds and minutes matter desperately.

Looking at life this way makes me not want to get out of bed. I combat this over analytical anxiety with faith that everything is happening exactly as it should, and I try to stay alert and listen, as I am often provided with all the information I need to keep things humming along smoothly. I am nonplussed by the fact that choosing raisin bran for breakfast kills the option to eat peanut butter toast. I'll have peanut butter toast for breakfast tomorrow, or more likely, eat it later for dinner. But oh boy! When it comes to the big stuff, lately I have been refusing to make any choices at all and unsurprisingly finding it to be quite unproductive. I've been experiencing an uncharacteristic, almost pathological fear of anything that looks or feels like commitment. Although I am unhappy in this place, I am more afraid of making a choice that will restrict my freedom, and so I do nothing.

The problem is, not making a decision is kind of making a decision. I am deciding to live unhappily because I am refusing to muster my courage and make real, ballsy choices. This in between place served a purpose for a while but remaining here is becoming uncomfortable. The world is continuing to spin despite my refusal to participate and not contributing is totally contrary to my nature. I am the Siri Sevak- Princess Of Great Devotional Service! I have been teaching yoga, which is my saving grace and the one thing I don't mind being married to right now. Knowing what you want to do is a pretty big deal, so at least there's that.

Ryan covered the revolution in Egypt, collecting tons of stories from protestors on the ground. The overwhelming impression he got was that the people made a collective decision to regain their dignity, and once they committed there was no going back. They killed the option to continue living like they had been and fought without compromise for what they knew was right. That's some seriously admirable commitment. Although I can't always understand how my choices will ripple out, when I consider them I can see that they don't carry the widespread impact of the choice of the Egyptian people. A single person can make a massive difference in the world, and perhaps I will, but I don't see myself as being all that important. Therefore, I can embolden my choice making with this knowledge- that although I do matter and my choices do affect others and myself, most of the time it's just not that big of a deal. Relax and do something...anything!

Regardless of the size of the choice, there comes a point where we have to decide. My friend JeLisa once told me that when she makes a decision she trusts that God has led her and she lets go of the outcome, no regrets. Somewhere in the vestige of my memory I recall being able to see decisions through with great commitment and faith. At some point I stopped planning and started floating aim and ambition-less, literally allowing other people to drive my life. I don't know if it's turning 27 or tiring of my current situation (or both...) but I'm ready to take up a purposeful trajectory once more. I'm ready to decide, to kill all the other options and never look back.

"If you don't ruthlessly decide your own future, someone will do it for you." -Ryan Lizza

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