Kaitlin’s Column: The abundance of choice

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Kaitlin Ryan

Growing up can be scary. You watch yourself change, transition through life and even develop body aches. This week, Kaitlin gives some words of wisdom as an ancient 22-year-old.

Kaitlin Ryan, Arts & Life Editor

I had a brief but formative phase in my adolescence where I was obsessed with magazines. Specifically the ones about celebrity gossip with a circa 2010 glittery-eyed Justin Bieber on the front cover. The magazines always had these quizzes where you would follow a path of questions and ultimately be led to something unique about yourself or a movie you should watch, for example. 

Even after I completed my choose-your-own-adventure-esque game, I would have to go back and follow each path to see what the outcome would be. I spent way too much time testing out different combinations and routes, leading to only slightly different results. 

These types of games always made me feel uneasy. There are so many paths, but I can only choose one — a mini-existential crisis in exchange for pictures of Disney stars being just like the rest of us. 

The abundance of choice is bittersweet. It is a double-edged sword. Sure, it is wonderful that we can make as much or as little of ourselves as we would like. Also, it is terrifying. 

While it was relatively easy for me to choose my major and decide on an eventual career path, I still contemplated many other routes beforehand. I thought I would be a teacher, then a psychologist, then a teacher again and for a brief time: a pharmacist. 

I am happy with the path I have chosen, yes, but sometimes it is hard not to wonder what life would have looked like if I studied a different major. What if I went to a different college? What if my Summer 2020 internship never got canceled? What if I never opened my door at that exact time during freshman move-in?

I would be somewhere, anywhere else. I would be a different person if I made another choice. It is strange to think that an alternate version of myself will just never exist. I will never know. 

I always thought that I would love to be someone else for a day, living in another country, with a different education and a busier life. This is not because I don’t love my life, but because I appreciate life itself so much that I want to live it from someone else’s perspective. 

We make hundreds of decisions every day. Eat breakfast now or wait a bit longer? Go on a walk or do homework?

Some choices hold more weight than others. Skipping town and moving away, for example, would change your life — at least more than choosing what podcast to listen to at work.

Still, the abundance of choice rampages through us every day. We are able to mold ourselves into whoever we want to, and all of that can feel overwhelming. 

Instead of deciding on just one path, I would love to see them all. I hate making these major decisions because I have FOMO for the life I will never live. However, from this fear I take away a lesson: be comfortable knowing that you can change at any moment. You can always see what else is out there.