Pick a Direction and Go with It
So what exactly led me to venture on my own to Australia? The answer isn’t quite so simple, and there’s more than just Australia that prompted the decision. Let me explain…
Ever since we are young, we are told we can be anything we want to. As young children we were asked by earnest adults to imagine what we wanted to be when we grew up. Going through high school, we took career exploration tests and were told to explore any career we could see ourselves doing. In college, we got our free range of majors, being able to even create our own major if that’s what suited us. From early on, those of us lucky enough to come from supportive backgrounds have received nothing but encouragement telling us we are able to do whatever we want to in life.
Then comes graduation. Then comes the quote/unquote “real world” where we are faced with a completely different prospect than what we’ve experienced before. Out of school and applying for a job, we may find that our chosen major is not a good fit for an employer, or that our experiences do not fit the required skills for a desired position. We may begin to experience regrets or remorse about the school or the field of study we chose after four years of scholarship; our interests—indeed ourselves—may have changed dramatically in the course of our education. Faced with uncertain prospects about the future, we may start to wonder if the decisions we made to get us to this point were the right choices to make. A little bit older and more educated now, we look with hindsight to see how our past choices have put a limit on our current prospects.
This situation prompts the genesis of the quarter-life crisis. For us who were told all along we could be anything in life we wanted, we are now finding that belief quite doesn’t hold true. Past decisions, as well-meaning as they may have been, have now limited what we can do in the future. Although we are still young and have many opportunities to change our direction, we find that such a move would require either un-doing or overlooking so much that we’ve already worked so hard to accomplish. At this juncture of our lives, we wonder if we’ve made the right choices up until now. To me, it’s this sudden realization that the world is no longer as open as we once believed that is the defining mark of the quarter-life crisis.
Maybe the quarter-life crisis is new or unique to the Millennial Generation. Maybe it just feels more pronounced now that the world is literally at our fingertips. Opportunities of what can be done tend to increase generation after generation, now seeming to reach a fever pitch in today’s society. Our culture has been breed to ‘have it all’. But having it all—having all options on the table—presents a dilemma. With so many options to choose from, our minds are unable to weigh all the pros and cons of a decision. We become intellectually burdened with the stress of not knowing which choice is the optimum one. And for some of us, the stress of not knowing which of the available options to choose can be paralyzing. This inability to make a decision in the face of limitless options is known as choice angst. Partly through graduate school and weighing my own next steps, I came upon this podcast produced by Radiolab that described the phenomenon of choice angst, https://www.wnyc.org/widgets/ondemand_player/radiolab/#file=%2Faudio%2Fxspf%2F91641%2F. I self-diagnosed myself almost immediately.
You see, as we get older, we have to make decisions in order to move on in life. And those big decisions that we have to make continually feel like they have more and more weight. Because for every decision you make—what job do I want, where do I want to live, who do I want to marry—you realize that you are closing doors on myriads of other possibilities. And those possibilities you decline could be equally as tantalizing as the ones you decide to pursue.
Thus, when I was in the course of deciding what to do after my masters program, I thought of the many different options available to me based on my particular situation. To aid in my decision, I penciled out a list of eight different directions I might go with my life. I knew that more likely than not, I’ll never get to explore all those directions that I imagined. A single lifetime is just not long enough for that. So eventually I just had to pick and direction and go with it. In the end, fruit-picking in Australia was the direction that prevailed above the others. This wasn’t necessarily because I was more interested in fruit-picking than other things, or that I felt spending time in a foreign country would benefit me more than other experiences. Rather, Australia came down to a gut decision. It really just was what needed to be done at the time.
There was no way I could have weighed out the pros and cons of every option I imagined for myself. So instead I picked a direction. And I’m going with it. Some doors may have closed because of this, but other doors will open. There’s just no seeing exactly where all this will lead.