Thursday, October 18, 2012

On Choices and What I've Learned at 25

Lately I've been thinking a lot about choices. What sorts of choices, you ask? I've been thinking about the little choices we make every day that point us in a certain direction. These decisions are, perhaps, the most important choices we ever make and often times we make them without thinking. We just move towards what feels right and then reflect on it later. At least this is how I've tried to moved through the world.

I don't know that when I left college I had a plan. Oh, wait, yes I did. My plan had two main points on it, "Pay off Student Loans" and "Don't Be a Burden." With these "goals" in mind I moved forward, seizing opportunities as they arose and letting other things move past me. To say there was a lot of choice in the things I decided to do is...generous. I was asked to return to my same summer gig after college. I pursued and then took the only internship I was interested in in the Bay Area.  When the opportunity to work for money at the internship I said "hell yes." When the opportunity to join the company full time came up, I simply nodded my head and signed my name.  Even the promotion I got 6 months in was more of a "Ashleigh isn't a crazy person and she's heard of this job before" thing than a "she's completely qualified" thing. YES, I could have said no at any point and SURE, if I hadn't pursued the position I wouldn't have ended up here but still, all of these decisions, at the time, felt like no brainers. I don't think I even took the necessary mental time to make a pro/con list. I just said yes. And in no time, it seems, my plan was moving me towards something, something I couldn't truly conceive of (and still can't, to be honest).

When the opportunity came up to move to New York, I think I literally said to my mom, "I kind of have to do this, right?" "Duh," she said to me. So I let myself be open, be free to allow for any possibility and free to say yes. And when I did that, a wide sea of things I never even imagined appeared before me. Jobs and adventures and friendship and a myriad of exciting, hard, lovely, terrifying things.

On a recent episode short of RadioLab, my favorite podcast, they were talking about the "Slinky Theory" which is basically this (from the RadioLab website):

"1) Dangle a Slinky above the ground as though you were holding a fish by the tip of its tail.
2) Let it extend to its full length.
3) Let go.

For a fraction of a second, something amazing happens: the bottom of the slinky hovers midair, seeming to defy the laws of physics, while the top collapses toward it.

The reason the bottom just floats there, according to Steve Strogatz, is simple: it hasn't gotten the memo yet."

There is so much more to this theory that I'm probably going to do it a disservice by simplifying it here, but basically the slinky theory says that when you let go and the bottom floats there it is because, for a split second, it doesn't know that you let go of the top. And when I say know I mean know. The cells in the slinky literally haven't gotten that information yet. Crazy, right? But awesome. Totally awesome, in the truest sense of the word.

When it comes to choices and paths, we are the slinky. We don't know what we don't know because we haven't learned it yet, because we can't know it until we know it (what a sentence). So why stress about the future? Whatever is coming for you, whether it is positive or negative, exciting or boring, whatever is out there is coming towards you no matter what you do. Therefore, you can only worry about the choices you make in the present because those are the only things you have control over. You can't know how they are going to effect the future because you can't see the future. You only know that you are the end of the slinky at rest. You have no idea that your ass is literally about to be handed to you.

Even now, just a few months into my 25th year, I already know that this is the most important thing I'm going to learn this year. Because it is about living in the moment, being present, and embracing your own intelligence regarding your own life. It's about trust. Trusting yourself and trusting the universe. Because the universe always has your back, even when you don't think it does. You just have to be open to seeing what it has to offer.

1 comment:

  1. "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.You have a right to be here, and whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should." -Max Ehrmann

    I figured it's applicable. <3