I’ve got a huge sweet tooth. I remember when I was younger, the dentist found seven cavities in my mouth because of how much candy I was eating. Instead of feeling a single ounce of shame, I would go around to all my friends and brag about my seven cavities.
Even to this day, whenever I need a pick-me-up I’ll go to the store and buy some candy. The decision to eat candy has always been an easy one, and even if I were in a candy store I have a good rule of thumb for what I like to pick out. I generally stay away from chocolates, prefer fruity flavors, enjoy gummy textures, sour is always a possibility, and having a juicy filling is the cherry on top. I’ve got the candy store on lockdown. Life? Not so much.
Life is like a candy store multiplied by infinity combined with some less than enticing options. I’ve got a couple of rules-of-thumb for life too, such as being as nice as I can or working as hard as I can, but sometimes life just plops down some baseball-sized jawbreakers and says “your move.”
I will admit that in my nineteen years of life, the tough choices I’ve had to make are but a small drop in the ocean. They don’t compare to some of the other choices people have to make, even people my age. Nevertheless, the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences I plan to apply to the future and hope that they can be of some use to other people as well, maybe not even as advice, but just a sign that no one goes through it alone.
Moreover, the fallout from our choices often leaves the longest-lasting impact. We make our choices and we’ve got to live with them. Even the choice to move on can very often be the most difficult
one. Our most difficult choices can be the ones that require us to alter our habits and live differently. Do we take the blue gummy or the red gummy?
I’m not always a big fan of talking about my college decision experience partly because I recognize that even the option of going to college is a very big privilege, but I believe that I learned a couple of things from my deliberation which has helped me to become a more content person.
As some other people can relate, my college decision rested between a prestigious but expensive choice or a state college that was aggressively affordable. My friends were also deliberating over the same choice, but everyone around me pretty unanimously decided on the former. I am someone who is very conscious of what my peers do, so when finances finally trumped prestige, I felt a lot of shame for a while.
For a while, I felt like I made the wrong choice. My inner conflict was actually made up of two different prongs. On one side was my perceived shame at attending a state college while the other side was frustrated that my hard work in high school led me to the same place where a lot of slackers in my fellow cohort ended up. I knew that ultimately these two assumptions were both incorrect, but it took conscious effort and choosing on my part in order for me to accept it.
For one, I worked to stop having my self-worth be reliant on external factors out of my control. I can control how many books I read or how much I write, but things like whether I get the job are out of my control in spite of my best efforts.
The decisions we make do not need to be grandiose gestures, even the small ones can carry a ripple effect which has the potential to alter our life course.
Over the past summer, I had applied to several internships but was rejected by all of them. This was pre-Covid too, so the rejection was even more brutal. I felt down for a while but eventually decided that there were more productive things to do than to dwell over my failures.
I decided to set more manageable goals for myself which involved:
reading a book a month (which is admittedly a low number but I haven’t read a book in years so it is a good starting point for me)
completing a certain number of sewing projects.
Although I did fall short of my goals (as measly as they are), even the process of engaging in new activities made me feel better and each mini-project I finished gave me a feeling of elation. I called it my self-improvement summer.
Furthermore, when I started making connections with the people I met through various clubs and organizations, I made a great community of motivated and caring people. Instead of choosing to retreat, I chose to push forward, and it has made all the difference. The decisions we make do not need to be grandiose gestures, even the small ones can carry a ripple effect which has the potential to alter our life course.
The Infinite Possibilities of Infinity
Another area I struggled in making my choice was when I was trying to decide what to major in. My mother was never a big stickler about what I should do so I pretty much had the entire candy store to myself, but unlike picking a candy, my major was going to have a slightly larger effect on my life. I was (and still am) someone who is interested in a variety of things but not singularly passionate about any of them.
Perhaps there is some deeper psychological mechanism that causes this phenomenon, but for me, the only thing that mattered was I didn’t know what I was doing. Sometimes I find myself still wondering what I’m doing in college. I’ve come to determine that I will never really know what I’m doing. There is no “right” option to life, I’m not going to get a reward and an end screen if I make certain choices. Sure, there are going to be better outcomes and worse outcomes, but that’s just what I need to live with. There will never be universal validation for what I have chosen, and it is down to me to validate myself.
Beyond the Moment
It can be even harder to live with a difficult choice than it is to make one. Typically, a difficult decision takes anywhere from a minute to a couple of months to make, but the consequences last for the rest of your life. Coming to grips with the effects of my tough choices has been what I consider to be the hardest part of it all, and my only advice is to keep trudging on.
We can’t take back the choices we make no matter how much we want to.
Even though things can feel like they suck and staying in bed all day playing Animal Crossing sounds way more fun, our future selves will one day be grateful for everything that has brought them there.
The advice of letting go is so nebulous and vague that sometimes I would rather just tell someone to not waste their breath. I know I need to let go but what am I actually letting go of?
I think the advice of letting go is taken too literally. I think letting go requires an entire revaluation of a person’s value system to stop caring about a certain set of things and care about a different set of things. Only when we reorient our values do we start thinking differently.
Most of all, I better understand that I am still learning. No matter how much I think I have it together or know what I am doing, life knows better. I will continue to struggle and make missteps, but I no longer see it as the universe trying to hold me back. The universe has better things to do. Instead, I acknowledge it as another step in my journey, another stone in the pond, another piece of candy to try out.
About the Author
Cecilia Winchell is currently a sophomore at UNLV studying philosophy with a minor in public policy. In her free time, she enjoys all things fashion, food, reading, and content related.