December 16, 2010

Life Skills: Decision Making

I arrived a half hour early, and the air in the car has already grown cold.  I'm not surprised; the heater roared, rather than hummed, when I turned it on.  I responded with a few four letter words, because I can't afford to fix it.  It has been a while, but I'm pretty sure heat during a CT winter is pretty important.

Students my age walk around outside my car with worn backpacks and circles under their eyes.  I see my past reflection in their faces.  I recognize their tired determination, and I miss it.

My stomach's in knots and I'm trying fervor-ishly to figure a way out of the situation I am about to put myself in.  I should have said no.

The call came late the night before and demanded a quick response.  I negotiated five minutes to decide and hung up, trying to find a reason to say no.  The laptop browser was open to one of my student loan accounts.  It furrowed its eyebrows and glared at me.  I rationed that I would not get the job - it wasn't a good fit - and dialed the temp agency back  to say yes.  "Sure," I told them, "I'll take the interview."  Sure holds a different certainty than yes.

My shoulder blades feel glued to the back of the car seat - a magnetic force too strong for me.  I pry them away and remove myself from the car.  Feed the meter.  I have the urge to run into the medical library and find the near student or resident, sit down and blurt out, "Tell me everything you are working on and thinking about - I'm interested! I was a law student, so I know how tired you are and how consuming this can be, but I'm so excited for you and I want to know everything!"  (I've clearly spent too much time away from my peer group the past few months.)  Instead, I walk up the stairs and through the office building door.  Prepare my speech about how I can answer phones, file, and schedule meetings.

I sit down to wait.  My whole body feels heavy.  My breathing is shallow.  "I'm sorry; I just don't think this is a good fit for me."  I can't think of anything else.  8:30 AM.  I can see myself, yesterday and all the days before, at home with a cup of coffee, my computer, and a list of jobs to apply for.  The long day ahead.

My voice in the interview drops a few octaves, comes out breathy and light.  Even though I feel the weight of every cell of my body.  I know this voice and what this feeling means: Don't. Don't. Don't. He has kind eyes, a warm demeanor.  He says all the right things.  I say yes.  I should have said no.


There is a difference between a good decision that does not turn out the way you hoped and a bad decision.  Sometimes, bad decisions look like good decisions, but they are just bad decisions all wrapped up nicely with a bow.  They usually wear a label: responsible.

I have learned over and over: If it feels like a bad decision, it is one.  Even if it looks like a good one.  Even if it is neat and tidy and wears the name tag that says, "Hi, my name is Responsible."  These types of decisions are still bad decisions.  They make everything worse, even if they seem to promise to make everything better.

I keep learning this (the very hard way) over and over again.  I need to stop getting distracted by the label and start listening to my stomach, my shoulders, my breath, my voice.  "They" say you always have the answers, even when you feel like you don't.  Now, not only do I believe this, I also have to live it.

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