Many moons ago, I went out for dinner to celebrate a friend’s engagement. At the time, I was just finishing uni, single & with no definite plans or commitments for the future. As so often happens, my friend who had got engaged & I ended up having a long chat in the ladies toilet at the restaurant. Despite it being her engagement, my friend expressed envy at my footloose & fancy free situation. She said she knew was heading in a different direction & that she was closing the door on many possibilities & opportunities because she really wanted to marry & have a family. She was conscious of her choice & its implications.
My friend is now married to her fiance. She lives in a lovely house & they have a beautiful baby daughter. I am, once again, coming to then end of a period of study, single & with no definite plans or commitments for the future. I have thought often about what my friend said that evening. Too often I haven’t been conscious about the choices I’ve made, particularly when it comes to relationships, finding myself further down the line in a situation I hadn’t envisaged or desired.
This week I have had a complete crisis of confidence in my ability to make such decisions & about the decisions that I have made. As Germaine Greer wrote in The Female Eunuch, ‘Liberty is terrifying but also exhilirating’. The last few days have felt very much more terrifying than exhilirating. I’ve felt crippled by a sense of poor choices & bad decision making: what if I’ve been going the wrong way? What if I haven’t chosen the right direction? Where am I going?
This morning, these fears & doubts came to boiling-point. I couldn’t decide what to wear; it was like I didn’t trust my own judgement with even the smallest of choices. I sat on my bed & cried – proper big tears, the kind that run all the way down your body & collect in your navel. With my tears flowed out my fears & doubts & concerns. As I sat sobbing, I knew that such moments are perhaps an inevitable consequence of my decision to pursue a life of my own; ultimately I can only rely on my own inner validation, not approval or reassurance from someone else. Hence, I need to be able to break the paralysis of decision-making, big or small. I had to just push on with my errands for the day; I couldn’t be defeated or sabotaged by my own demons.
Early afternoon, I needed something to keep me going until lunch. Stood in Boots surrounded by every snack imaginable, I felt paralysed by choices again. I must have looked like a crazy shoplifter, keep picking up packets & then returning them to the shelves. In the end, I left the shop empty-handed. I wandered aimlessly down the street, my mind consumed with a tirade of snack-related choices. Enough is enough! I walked into Greggs. I looked at the fridge. I surveyed each shelf in turn. I saw a bottle of Fairtrade orange juice. I knew that was the right choice for me. I bought it. I drank it. And with that one simple choice, my faith in my own ability to make decisions & confidence in the decisions I make was restored.