Patrick Ward words, code, and music

Which Road Do I Take?

I’m working on a short story that I hope to have ready for tomorrow. Unfortunately, fiction can be a fickle beast at times: some days I blaze through a story, while others require deeper reflections and pauses while I try to give the story the respect it deserves.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about some of the choices I need to make, and how too often I come to these metaphorical forks in the road and have no idea which way to turn. I’ve often found myself stuck in the middle, unable to make a decision for fear of making the wrong one. What if I don’t like that road, I think, I might have to backtrack! It’s not unusual for me to camp out there for awhile, and just wait for insight to whack me upside the head with certainty. Unfortunately, it never seems to arrive.

The truth is: the less I do, the more indecisive I become. Nothing is certain, and if I’m camped out waiting for this mythical sense of surety to appear, it’s pretty much a given that I’m going to be sitting there until I run out of time. Meanwhile, those who did make choices are far ahead of me enjoying the rewards of their efforts.

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree.

“Which road do I take?” she asked.

“Where do you want to go?” was his response.

“I don’t know,” Alice answered.

“Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”

~ From Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

In the Disney movie, I believe this was followed by: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” And it’s true. Any choice is better than no choice.

Even if I decide the choice I made is not going to continue to sustain me, it would be a mistake to think I need to stay on that path. I create my own infrastructure; I’m the one who puts that fork in the road to begin with. So, if I find the choices I made are not providing me with the life I need, then it’s up to me to find a new path. That power lies within me, no where else.

Yet, why must there only be two choices in a given situation? Is it true that there are only two paths?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a binary choice. Some situations only provide two distinct solutions. However, I have to think that these are more likely the exception rather than the rule. Most situations are not black and white. Most situations usually contain remnants of either extreme.

For example, I made the mistake early on in this blog of thinking I had to choose between becoming a fiction writer or a non-fiction writer. However, through the course of working through the 30 days project I’ve realized I can be either at any given time. There are times when fiction will get my message out better. Sometimes, a memoir of something that happened in my life is the wiser choice. Other times, I may find that a small bout of journalism fits better. There may even be a combination of these choices that makes more sense. For example, my piece on trying karaoke for the first time contained elements of all three.

The point is, life decisions don’t need to be made as either/or choices. Most of the time there is a middle ground, some combination of our extremes, that makes far greater sense than focusing on the two polar opposites we’ve come up with. In fact, the anxiety of having to choose between the polarity of these decisions is most likely what causes me to camp out in the middle of the road to begin with.

It’s when I look at the situation creatively, and find the path that is not only less taken, but uniquely my own, that I find it’s easier to choose and begin taking action. And that makes all the difference.