There isn’t an experience quite as phenomenally strange as the task of trying to sum up, on a page, ‘All The Reasons Why I’m Unreal And The Obvious And Perfect Candidate For This Opportunity.’ For me, this came when I was at pains to compile said list in an application to a certain far-flung and lovely exchange program. Considering that I was never one to shy away from explaining why I was good at certain things and not so good at others, it proved a much more humbling and unnerving task than I would’ve favoured.
In this ‘I Can’t Believe How Many Talents I Have’ type of personal statement, I went through a weird kind of ‘this could change my life’ feeling. For once, I felt entirely distanced from these aforementioned talents. Trying to list them for someone else’s viewing didn’t make me feel like I deserved anything at all. You would think it would be a semi-confidence boosting exercise: make a list of all the things you like about yourself. But all I kept thinking about was: A) how unprepared I was to make a decision of such significance, financially, academically and geographically; and B) all the reasons why I wished someone, anyone, had told me about all the bumps I’d meet along this particular segment of Liz’s Life Path.
During your student years, the Art of Decision Making dominates your three or four (-score and twenty more) years. It’s overwhelming, daunting. In our own little mini-generation, different somewhat to our siblings maybe seven or eight years our senior or junior, there’s a rhetoric that buttresses a desire to succeed and jump as high as you can; a wave of Monday morning blues-busting posts, that indoctrinate us with ‘if you want it, you can get it, get yourself out of bed, conquer the world, why-not?’-type branding. You don’t need to deserve something, you just get up, and you go and get it. Ask. Believe. Receive. No one really deserves anything.
Sometimes it’s a source of comfort, but the pendulum swings between ‘I can achieve anything I want’, and ‘why should I be the one to achieve it?’ In the familiar twin cycle of confidence-come-insecurity I find myself hung Samson-style between them
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Yet, right there, is where I find this vacuuming disconnect lying in wait. I’m calling it the Art of Decision Making, and it sweeps from two poles. For I can do anything I want, if I want it badly enough, and I can’t think of enough reasons why I should get it. Swinging in between millennial go-getter confidence, and millennial ‘but I’m just not good enough’ / ’success is for other people, not for me’ anxiety. I realise that such a dichotomy of sentiment isn’t readily going to fade away. We live it every day. Ultimately, confidence is key, but when it comes to making the call, deciding what’s right for you and what isn’t, there comes a new level of anxiety that can’t be quenched by reminding yourself, in list-format, ‘All The Reasons Why I’m Great.
I grappled with these feelings in making my exchange program decision. Not that I didn’t want it, but I couldn’t quite grasp why I was good enough to take it; why I was good enough to be the one that explores and succeeds, despite my endeavours to list the answers to these anxieties. In an unspoken doctrine that demands we young adults be ever-confident in our pursuits, yet humble in facing our limitations, all the while hunting to better ourselves in a system that doesn’t allow any time to pause and reassess. Can a certain triumph be found in accepting that there’s a different kind of confidence to be uncovered? An ‘of course I’m good enough for these things, but I’m not ready to go and take them.’
What made me question this was acknowledging the real reason behind my decision making anxiety; was I doing an injustice to the list of ‘All That is Liz-Certified Greatness’ if I just let it go? Therein comes a different kind of assurance; the confidence to know when something’s right for you, and when you’re just not ready, and why it’s okay to admit that. Oftentimes, making a big decision only makes you fear who, or what, you’d be letting down if you avoided it altogether.
I’d love to be the kind of person that falls asleep to the idea that what is meant to be will be. Believing in things as they are is to trust that things work out if you leave them be. It is a trust that we all do the best that we can at the time, and you live that way from one big decision to the next. To me, that’s courageous.
We’re taught to keep going from one stage to the next, mindlessly flowing from exam-to-exam, accepting along the way that it’s the right and obvious path to be on. To find comfort in knowing that things don’t come as they suit you, and just as much as you must find solace in taking on big life-altering opportunities (as there seems so many in three and four-score years of university), you must learn to let the big decision go, if you’re damn not ready to think about it.
Just as all great padres somehow manage to do, about five minutes of ‘it’ll be fine, petal’ was all my dad needed to tell me that there’s all kinds of recipes in the ‘Art of Decision Making.’ Sometimes, rather than the courage to simply jump for every opportunity and every prestige, the courage oftentimes lies in deciding when something, however shiny and prestigious and life-altering it seems, maybe just isn’t coming at the right time. The courage to tell yourself to be comfortable with taking your time
The biggest affliction, for me, was not deciding whether or not trekking to the other side of the world was going to be the next step, but rather, how much I’d potentially be letting myself down if I didn’t. While this instance gave a big painful prod to my mindset, I’d be happy to apply this line of thinking to many other challenges.
There is no peace to be found when you’re overwhelmed with options and worrying about what could possibly be the best one, simply for the sake of following the production line. I’d rather put aside the list of reasons as to why I am the perfect candidate for this opportunity, and start thinking of why this opportunity is the perfect candidate for me
I'll head along my own path. It need not be the heroic trail of adventure and prestige within which we strive to fall into place. In pursuit of clouded achievement, I'd rather live knowing that I can (for the most time) trust my quiet confidences, while also tuning into my anxieties; but to know when they're holding me back and when they're keeping me safe.
Let this be an ode to the ‘Art of Decision Making’, from which I’m aiming to detangle myself enough to ease my anxieties, rather than produce them. Because, really, we don’t miraculously ‘find’ ourselves in adversity, we create ourselves along the way.