Making Choices, And Owning Them

I skimmed through an article a Facebook friend shared, 15 Things You Don’t Owe Anyone, and it got me thinking. When I started skimming I was expecting only the blatantly obvious, something like: you don’t owe anyone sex because they paid for dinner. But I was really struck by the items on the list that state that you don’t owe anyone an explanation of your life choices (whether that be relationships, career, appearance, etc.).

It hit me, rather suddenly, that I spend way too much time coming up with explanations. Explanations for my actions, my choices, my feelings. Some of these are explanations that I give to other people, or that I fantasize about giving to people. But most of the time I’m trying to give myself an explanation. I try to justify my feelings and my decisions, as if every little thing that I do needs to be defended.

As I’m finishing up my teacher education program and applying for my first teaching job, I’ve been trying to justify two things to myself:

1) Why do I want to work in that city? The same city that he lives in.

I’ve justified it to myself by reasoning that he’s the only one I know in this geographic area and I don’t want to be lonely. I want to have support, someone to lean on when my first year of teaching gets rough.

Sure, that’s a good reason. And maybe it’s true. At least partially. But deep down I know that I’ve made a decision, and I don’t need to explain it to anyone, least of all myself. I’m allowed to make decisions, even life-changing ones, for whatever reason I want. Or for no good reason at all.

   2) Do I want to be a teacher for the rest of my life? Is it horrible if the answer is NO?

I know so many people who are becoming teachers because they feel that it is their calling in life. They’ve wanted to become a teacher for several years, if not more. But that’s not me. It took me a long time to make this decisions. It was, admittedly, not my first choice career path. And I do see myself doing something different at some point (I will finish writing my novel someday, that is something I am certain about). But just because I don’t plan on teaching for the next fifty years, doesn’t mean that I can’t be a great teacher for however long I do it for. And I don’t need to explain that to my peers or my future boss or myself.

Sometimes in life we do things that don’t make sense and we make decisions that aren’t the most logical. I could spend the rest of my life trying to justify the choices I have made, trying to convince myself and everyone else that I was reasonable in my decision making process. But sometimes the most reasonable thing to do, is to go for what you want. Do what you need to do. Do what makes you happy. Do what you feel is right. Do it and own it and don’t apologize to anyone. Do it and don’t even think about regretting it.

Isn’t Life Grand?

            My aunt keeps commenting “Isn’t Life Grand?” on my Facebook statuses and it makes me smile every time. This past weekend was an adventure for sure. I got to explore London (for the third time in the past four months), see the Roman baths in the gorgeous city of Bath, explore the massive Windsor Castle, and see the magnificent ruins of Stonehenge. But I also spent quite a lot of time walking through the rain, killing time in a pub, sitting in a crowded bus station, trying to have a conversation with a drunken Scottish man with a very thick accent, trying to avoid being kissed on the cheek by the very same man, trying to sleep on a double-decker bus, walking the streets of Manchester at 4am, sitting in a freezing train station for hours before the sun even rose, watching my money disappear from the back seat of a cab, sitting on a freezing bus trying not to fall asleep, and sighing with a great sense of relief as I opened my front door and crawled into my bed at 10am. Then I woke up at 11am to the drip-drip-drip of my leaking ceiling.

            As much as I wish my weekend had consisted of less sleep deprivation and more sunshine, it just wouldn’t have been the same without a little bit of chaos. When I look back on the wonderful experiences I’ve had studying abroad, I’m going to think of that Scottish man, and dozens of train stations, and all that rain. And I’m going to laugh. I’m in England, and just being here is an adventure.

Over the past four months I think that what I’ve learned more than anything is that life is an adventure. I see the impact of choices more than ever, and the importance of taking risks. My biggest decision was not applying to study in England, it was not signing the papers, and it definitely wasn’t buying that plane ticket. My biggest decision was going to a little study abroad info session about a year ago. There have been so many times in my life when I have been interested in something but haven’t followed through. I’ve paced back and forth in front of buildings, walked to the door, touched the handle, and left. I’ve written emails and deleted them completely. I’ve hung up the phone before it’s answered. And now I’m thinking, what if I hadn’t? Not only is my life insanely different today than it was just five months ago, but I know that when this is all over and I’m back in the United States that my life will be different than it would have been if I hadn’t gone to that meeting.

Isn’t it just grand that one little tiny decision can have such an impact? And isn’t it grand that we have the power to make those decisions every single day?

The Right Decision

            Today was the final day of class for the cross-cultural training course I had to take in order to study abroad next semester. I honestly hated the class, but in the last five minutes the professor said something that I’m going to be holding onto for the next six months. In fact I think I’m going to tack it on my wall as a reminder. He said “you’re making the right decision in choosing to study abroad”. It’s that simple, yet it felt like something I’d been waiting to hear for months.

            I’ve never been so excited in my whole life, but it’s no secret that I’m currently in a state of panic over the whole thing. I have been asking myself if I would regret this choice for the rest of my life, I have been wishing that I could just know that I’m going down the right path. I’ve been doubting my ability to do this, to go so far out of my comfort zone. I am a very shy person, I may try to avoid this and change it, but it’s a simple truth of who I am. Maybe one day I won’t be, but I’ve been trying to change for as long as I can remember and I’m just not there yet. I look at the other students who will be studying abroad and I can’t help but compare myself to them. I’m not like them. I do not walk up to strangers and start a conversation. I do not ask for help or directions. I do not go to parties. I do not socialize. But I’m putting myself in a position where I will be alone in a country where I won’t have anyone I can call, where I’m going to have to do all of the things that I currently cannot do. I’ve been looking at myself and saying “why did you think you could do this!” Everything in me is telling me I’m going to fail.

            And I very well might fail. I surely will fail in some aspects. This is not going to be easy, and it’s not going to go as planned. But it is the right decision. I know this because I know that no matter what happens I will learn and grow and come back a better person than when I left. The only way it could truly go wrong is if I die. I’d rather not think about that possibility; besides, it’s just as likely to happen if I stay – and then I wouldn’t have gotten my great adventure.

            I’ve also been doubting my choice in university. Maybe I would have a better time at a different school, but I’m just going to have to accept that I made a choice. You can call it fate if you want, but this is where I’m going and it’s where I’m meant to go. Besides, it doesn’t really matter where I’m going, it matters that I’m going. No matter where I go, it will be worth it.

            There is still so much work left to do before I will be boarding that plane, and then there will be so much more work. But it will all go by so much easier knowing that I’ve made the right decision. I thought this was the type of thing that you could never know until it was over, but I think I know now. I’m not meant to be the same person forever, I need to get out and figure out who I’m meant to be next and how I need to change. And I just can’t do that here. Back in high school I felt trapped in my life. Going away to college was the right decision then and I knew it without a doubt because I knew that I didn’t have room to grow where I was. I’m feeling the same way now, I’m running out of room to grow and it’s scary because there is so much I still need to change. I know that I’m making the right choice; sometimes it just takes someone else saying it to remind me that it’s true.