This past weekend, I had the pleasure of being surrounded by undergraduate students, at the peak of their intelligence and passion. Their questions reminded me of this short story I wrote last year, inspired by a Choice I made when I was their age. 

The lake is quiet, the trees surround me, asking and giving nothing.

Perhaps this was not the best spot to ponder my future. It’s too quiet here. So quiet, I can almost hear the wings of the dragonflies zipping around the lake. Dragonflies are pretty, in that ugly way only some creatures can achieve. They are iridescently beautiful, until you remember they have huge bug eyes and jaws that can open as wide as their head. Speaking of jaws, I wonder if there are any dangerous fish in this lake? Definitely no sharks…wait. I’m not focussing again. Back to why I came here. The Decision.

I could just sit here, enjoying the quiet. Or I could at least try to enjoy the quiet. Quiet has never been my strong suit. Why couldn’t I have just received one envelope? Why did there have to be two, and then three? At least with two, I could have flipped a coin. Someone once told me that flipping a coin will solve any problem with mutually exclusive options. If you flip it, and you like the choice, fortune has smiled upon you. If you flip it, and you don’t like the result, you know the other option is what you really want. Either way, that split-second of realization gives you a window into yourself, underneath all the expectations and pressures pulling you in different directions. It tells you what you are doing, even before you are conscious of your choice.

Unfortunately for me, I have three choices, not two. One is the Hard Choice, one is the Logical Choice, and one is the Wild Card. The worst part is that any of them could be the Right Choice. No-one tells you that, as you get older, choices become shades of ‘maybe’ instead of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. That any choice is a possibility, and that the outcomes are usually equally probable and gratifying – it’s just a matter of what you want. Every choice you make narrows your path until you are walking a tightrope of your own design. And, if you decide to jump off in the middle onto another wide road, you are either admired for your bravery or shunned for your stupidity.

My problem is that I thrive in hecticness. I enjoy the challenge of chipping away at intractable problems. Even though it’s hard. Even though to some, it seems like a hopeless, thankless task. It’s the difference between doing something and getting through the day, and loving what you do. Not because it’s easy or even lucrative, but because I don’t want to just survive professionally. I want a professional adventure.

But, before I can begin this adventure, I need to pick a school. And to pick a school, I need to think about where it will lead me. But what if I don’t want to be led? What if I just want to travel, and see where I end up? But the world doesn’t work like that anymore. Not since I started having to make decisions that actually matter, anyways.

The dragonflies are further away now, the brightest ones appearing as moving colours against the dark calm of the lake. They no longer appear ugly; in fact, they no longer seem to be dragonflies. Just moving colours. Maybe that’s how I should approach my conundrum. What would these three choices look like up close? Iridescent, or ugly? Further away, would they retain their colours, or fade into the darkness of the future?

I think I know which one I want, now. The Wild Card is the only one that is iridescent up close and doesn’t fade away when I try and gaze into the distance. It’s appealing now, and while it will narrow my path slightly, it won’t make it disappear.

I guess the lake was the right spot, after all.


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