With age comes the choice of moral responsibility.
How do you want to live your life? What will make you happy? How do you want to be treated? What do you want to leave behind? These were the questions I grew up with. They are phrased and asked in such a simplistic way that simple answers like “I want to take walks after dinner with my wife” or “I want everyone to have equal rights and opportunities” feel pretty logical. The fact that it’s not that easy is my reminder that it’s okay not to have answers to questions that don’t quite fit.
The main question I have been asking myself lately is, what choice do you want to make? Each day, each hour, we have choices to make. What to wear, what to say, where to go, who to meet, and what to dedicate our time to. It’s a constant puzzle of making a choice, finding out if it feels good or bad, then choosing again. Sometimes it really comes together, and other times nothing quite fits correctly. The reminder to take a step back, re-examine the puzzle, and try again is all we can do.
Whether you’re figuring out the best method to get every member of the family work harmoniously together, the next strategy in enjoining camaraderie in the workplace, how to pay for dinner tonight, or what your city/local council really does, etc., they are all choices. It can feel overwhelming to digest them all at once. Much like the brain hole that is social media, we are constantly scrolling through a list of self-reflections while literally scrolling through snippets of horrific news, filtered photos, and a constant stream of culture, history and events. And with every choice comes a million more choices.
That’s not the scary part. This is: The part where I have to make choices, for myself. Do I allow myself to turn my brain off and watch a movie whose sole purpose is to entertain me? Do I take a different commute to work without a book or headphones and engage with strangers? What social justice organization do I want to learn more about and donate to? Can I really afford that? Is it normal to not want to talk to anyone all day? What should I wear to the party? How much news can I absorb and still get up and fight whatever powers there’d be that are deemed responsible?
I certainly don’t have the right answers, because there may not be just one. I can confidently say I want to choose to do more, learn more, love more, lead more, inspire more and engage more. I want to stand up to and break down inequality and injustice. I want to woo the love of my life and fall in love with her all over again. I want to adore my job and feel pride in what I create. I want to go camping and dive from a cliff and ride in a helicopter and go to rallies and get a cat and learn guitar and do something that made someone’s day a little better, so on and so forth. I want to do it all. Yet I want to feel comfortable knowing the fact that I CAN’T DO IT ALL.
Learning that I can’t fix everything feels like life’s cruelest lesson. I CAN’T single-handedly end the culture of abuse and injustice. I CAN, however, make choices that educate others on consent and upholding pride and dignity in every individual. I CAN’T fix a friend’s broken heart. But I CAN bring them a bottle of wine and listen. I CAN’T expect others to help me with my choices. Yet, I CAN surround myself with people who respect my choices and learn with me.
Maybe, despite my age, I haven’t figured out how to truly be an adult, but I am slowly getting better at feeling ok with not knowing. And while I have been told I should be better at asking for help, I don’t think it is help I am looking for. How do you even begin to ask for help when people are struggling to sustain their daily lives? How do you complain about debt when you live in a world full of violence and injustice? The “help” is reading about a scholarship a student just received. Or seeing my family or friends huddled in a room sharing funny stories. It’s getting daily emails of positive ways to lift up an organization, or organizing a local fundraiser. What helps me make good choices is seeing the good choices of those around me and those who inspire the hell out of me. It’s seeing how choices affect others and learning how to make better ones in the future.
What helps is stepping back from the puzzle and taking it one piece at a time.
So maybe that’s it. Maybe it took me nearly 1,000 words to say that life has thus far taught me one critical lesson: In every turn, make better choices.
Photo credits: Google photos