Recently I’ve pondered starting a new feature on runnerchica called “weird $@*# seen on the run.” There is a lot of crazy stuff out there! For example, in the past week, I’ve spotted a lone galosh in the middle of the road, a package of brand new size XXL underwear scattered around at a bus stop, and a man wearing large white sunglasses, a bright yellow peanut M&M jacket, and red capri pants. I also passed the dumpster shown above. Its sign, “You do have a choice” caught my attention. Now, I’ve never really considered dumpsters on the list of things I’d shop around for if the need arose, but the sign got me thinking.
First of all, I’m a terrible “chooser.” Put a menu in front of me, and it’ll take me 15 minutes to decide if I want chicken or salmon on my salad. Throw me in TJ Max, and I’ll go fifteen rounds of “black wedge vs. brown” before I eventually decide to buy both. My problem is that I take too long to decide inconsequential things. I often have to remind myself, “Hello, you’re not picking a college, just make a damn decision.”
However, the topic of choices goes well beyond small decisions like “boxers or briefs?” As a teacher and a step-mom, I tell kids all the time that not only do they have choices in life, but they also need to be sure those choices are good. Because, as we all know, making good choices is not always a strong suit of kids and teenagers. I remind my elementary students that they need to make good choices when playing with others. Yet, time after time they don’t, and someone inevitably ends up crying because they were “wronged” by a fellow 3rd grader. Middle schoolers are asked to be respectful, do their homework, and not be bullies or mean girls. High schoolers… where do I begin? The number of “good choices” we beg them to make each day is too many to note.
That’s the “bad” side of kids making choices. There’s a good side too. It comes in the form of kids choosing to go outside and play, just because they feel like it, and even though it may be raining. They also make grandiose statements of what they will choose to be someday – ”I’m going to be an artist, a doctor, an astronaut, a ballerina” without first going through a system of checks and balances to see if those things are possible. Whether good or bad, kids in general are not afraid to step out of their comfort zones and follow their internal compasses. This is probably because they haven’t acquired those filters that adults possess, which are helpful for preventing “stupid choices” (steering a bike with your feet, sneaking out at 3 a.m. to swim in a neighbor’s pool, etc.) yet not helpful when it comes to making major life changes. It seems more often than not, fear promptly puts a stop to any lofty dreams we may have.
This is unfortunate, because while many of the decisions we face daily are minor (should I run 5 or 7 miles, make steak or chicken, take the highway or side streets), most of us have bigger issues that perplex us in the “big picture” category. Often when it comes to these high stakes choices, we either choose to make no changes, or we choose the safe route. We look at those choices as things we can’t change, rather than as opportunities to choose a different path. We hate our jobs but choose to complain rather than call a head hunter. We get stuck in relationships that don’t work, yet remain stuck because “it’s a jungle out there” and we’d rather be with the wrong person than alone. We want to make some major change, but stop short because it’s just too hard. So many times, we choose to hold ourselves back, because choosing to move forward would take us out of our comfort zones.
The truth is, unlike kids, adults think long and hard before leaving the land of the familiar. As my financial advisor/insurance agent put it, “Many people don’t follow their dreams; they don’t want to step out of their comfort zones. That’s too bad, because that stops them from doing what they really, truly want to do.” Now, when this “go for it” advice is coming from someone whose job it is to be conservative and plan for the future, I think one needs to listen to it.
So, the next time one of “those choices” crosses our minds, perhaps we need to take a deep breath, consider our options, and then look at the situation differently. Maybe this is where we need to think like a kid, and remember what it was like to say yes to life before saying no, and take that first step into the unknown. Who knows, once we get there, we just might discover that the only way to truly get into our zones, is to step out of them in the first place.
by abbey algiers