Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Choice Paralysis"

(Friday, Sept. 2, late morning) ... After dropping my daughter off, I went for a bike ride along the High Line Canal trail with a new friend; lets call her "G."  Sunshine + crisp 74 degree air + completely honest easy back & forth = better than therapy.  I'd felt good vibes about G from the day I met her at our sons' school and we decided to carpool.  Our husbands hit it off too, not a prerequisite to good friendship, but always a help at the "raising young kids focus on family life" juncture in things.  I knew our bike 'n chat was going to be fun when in the four minute ride from our daughters' pre-school to the trailhead, G & I were able to follow each other as we each fragmented through five or six different discussion topics.

So G & I are both lawyers who have struggled at various points after earning our JDs with what the hell to do with such illustrious pieces of paper.  We're members of a pretty big club.  (I'd post a link or two here, but I think my point is better made by asking you to please google the phrase disgruntled lawyers.)  Like many associates in the "now that I'm a lawyer, why can't I sleep at night?" firm, I have experienced some pretty serious self-doubt.  I'm talking about the kind of insecurity that makes one wonder whether the problem was not simply the wrong career choice, but rather a deep deficit in one's ability to utilize sound judgement.  Tack on a self-diagnosed case of severe lack of focus, and you've got an uber-educated, highly marketable basket-case.  Me, c. 1999.

As G & I shared stories, we realized that our network of conversations had a unifying theme - the paradox of choice.  This is the theory, popularized in psychologist Barry Schwartz's 2004 book, "The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less," that while choice is essential to happiness, too many possibilities can actually lead to a poorer decision or failure to make a decision at all.  G & I had both found ourselves, at various points, torn between all of our options - at work and at home.

Woe is Evelyn, right?  But hey, if you're rolling your eyes just about now, don't.  Because if you're reading this, its likely that you too bear the burden of utterly fantastic luck.  G & I are among a generation of middle class American women who enjoy a level of autonomy and freedom our foremothers could only dream of, and fought for on our behalf.  We were born into a world where we can be and do pretty much whatever we want.  Where to live; who to marry; how many children to have, if at all; how to earn a living - you name it, we get to pick.

Tack onto this wealth of possibilities a small to extra-large (depending on how Jewishly you were raised) dose of guilt because you know that even today you are surrounded in the good ole U.S.A. by women for whom "equality" is just an illusion.  And because you know that there are millions more women living in other parts of the world for whom even the concept of making one's own decisions is entirely unknown.  Rape; genital mutilation; sex trafficking.  And we're complaining about a job that albeit mind-numbingly boring pays six figures?

So many, many choices.  Whats a Gen X or Y girl to do?

Here's what I've done at this point.  Grown up.  A lot.  Realized that I'm not crazy.  Well, not because I went to law school (which I loved, by the way) and then followed my heart.  Owned my decisions.  Accepted the closing of certain doors when I've opened up others.  Learned to appreciate my story.  Decided to keep writing it.  In my own way.  In my own words.  And been thankful, every day, for that choice.

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