I’ve been talking to a few friends lately who have huge life decisions to make. They’re in transition and it seems like a difficult place to be. Many of them feel a tad unsure and are feeling the “burden of choice.” Although, as frustrating as indecision is, we should all remember that it is a luxury only afforded to the fortunate. On top of this inability to decide things like, which job to take, when to move in with their significant other, when to get engaged, when to change one’s career path, when to purchase a home etc, everyone is also taking in to consideration expectation. That is, what society, family or friends actually expect you to do and how they expect you to act. A friend, who I’ll refer to as “X”, told me yesterday that they are interested in shifting gears. However, changing career paths will mean starting over. X is excited about the prospect, but not sure if their parents will approve. I was exhausted just listening to them, but also realized that I’m not immune to similar thinking.
I started reading a new book (well new to me), “All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age”, by Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly. Hubert Dreyfus is actually a Berkeley Professor (Go Bears!). All Things Shining uses Western Literature to examine what it means to live a meaningful life, in a time when there is no one religion determining how anyone should behave or make decisions. In one section, they make reference to the work of David Foster Wallace, stating that the structure of his work is often a reflection of modern indecisiveness:
“Many of these (his) sentences are complemented by lengthy endnotes that continue the process, as if to say that this is the way we are aware of ourselves in the modern age: we say something, wonder about what we’ve said, unsay it, ask about it again, circle back to it from a different perspective, qualify it, unqualify it and on, footnoting our endnotes and end noting our footnotes to infinity. We conclude, it at all, without resolution.”
Whether or not Wallace intended his structure to imply this, I believe Dreyfus and Kelly have touched on a real challenge. One which I see playing out everyday. Then I have to imagine how exhausting it is, to not just face narrowing down options on one’s own, but to consider everyone else’s opinion as well.
Now I’ve just started this book and while the writers address some heavy issues, it’s not all negative. Even when addressing David Foster Wallace’s sadness and the “lostness” inherent in his writing, they take care to illustrate the positive intent of his work. They’ve quoted Wallace as saying,
” In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to the elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness.”
While transition seems daunting, it also provides an instance of endless possibilities. One has the chance to explore something NEW, change their life or improve their circumstance. Saying yes to moving in with your significant other, or no to a job offer should never induce fear. Standing at the edge of possibility in fear isn’t the most productive option. Either way you must jump and make a decision. I recently received some advice from someone, they said, “The beginning of a new pursuit always seems dark but you must step in and see for yourself. There’s probably more light than you think.”
I’m thankful for the advice! Do More; Think Less.