This September marks five years of big-decision making in my life. This anniversary is notable because I have always been tormented by making big decisions. And here I am: a survivor. Five years ago, I was finishing up college. I was born and raised in Oklahoma, and at the time living the furthest from my parents I had ever lived—forty five minutes. But like many of my generation, I was afflicted with wanderlust and knew enough about the places I had been to feel deeply connected to Washington, D.C.
I interviewed for a couple jobs directly following graduation, one of which I suddenly wanted more than anything else in the world: an entry level position working for a U.S. Senator in Washington, D.C. I had been heavily involved in politics throughout college and thought I wanted to enter that world. I was offered the job. While I was ecstatic when I got the news, I still found myself pacing the hallway outside my childhood bedroom shortly after I got the call. Soon, another emotion began to overwhelm me, and it felt a lot like doubt.
This was my first big decision after graduation—a decision that many bright-eyed college grads had made before me. I told myself this was everything I wanted until I reached the end of the hall. And as I turned to repeat my walk in the other direction, I told myself what I really needed was to learn to be content. I did not dislike living in Oklahoma at all. On the contrary, I had friends and family there, along with the promise of affordable rent and great cost of living in the state FORBES.com had labeled “most recession-proof”. Was it foolish to risk being poor and lonely in a place I had only visited? What I had was good, and how could I be sure the unknown was better? I didn’t want to be enticed only to find out it was all for nothing. I saw the decision before me like the red and blue pill, and I didn’t want to make the wrong choice. In the end, I packed two suitcases and bought a one way ticket.
Two years after the move, I had shed a layer of skin, and morphed into someone slightly altered. I made strong friendships and gained a great deal of experience working on the Hill, but left in frustration and tears. Politics was not what I wanted for my life, and I knew that now without a doubt. Surprisingly, however, I wasn’t regretting my decision. There was so much more to my life on the East Coast than my job.
In those two years, I met the man I would marry. He was not like anyone else I had ever met, and he made me feel like I was home, half way across the country. When my brief career in politics ended I began working in the private sector for a company I liked but a job I was unsure of. I ended up liking the job more than I thought I would.
When I think about my former self pacing that hallway, I don’t envy that girl. But she taught me a lesson. My former self laid the groundwork for learning the truth about decisions: doubt really doesn’t have much to do with the outcome. While conviction is helpful, it doesn’t always come when you need it.
While my career in politics turned out to be something I was not expecting, I certainly don’t view that phase of my life as a mistake. Marriage is harder than I thought it would be, but also better. My doubts about my new job turned out in a surprising way as well. As it turns out, making decisions doesn’t decide as much as we think.
As I grow older, I have learned to focus less on making the ever elusive “right” decision, and place more emphasis on making good decisions. Maybe they are one in the same, but breaking them down into good and bad makes them easier to digest. If you are willing to do it, if there are enough pros, no blaring red flags, then commit to it. My doubts about the decisions I have made in the past few years have all spawned from a fear of making the wrong one. But there was no need to worry. To doubt is human, but deciding your fate is not. In The Fellowship of the Rings, Gandalf says to Frodo who is lamenting his calling, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” A simple reminder that decisions are deceptive: the present is all we have.
Now, five years after my move away from home, my husband and I are making plans to move back. Was it the right decision to move to D.C.? I don’t ever worry about that now. There is no doubt in my mind that my first big decision, the one that was the catalyst for all the rest, was a good one—a great one. I am so grateful for my life in D.C. And as the latest big decision brings me full circle, back to where I came from, I am less daunted even if there is a small murmur of doubt buried deep inside me. Just like the girl who was pacing the hallway, I am wondering about the future. But this time, the feeling of doubt is a comforting reminder that I am not expected to be certain of what is to come. All that I have is the time that is given to me. Five years from now I’ll have another story to tell about how I never could have foreseen the result of moving back to Oklahoma. And I can’t wait to know what it is.
To see more, check out the summer issue of Lydia Magazine!