So, I’m having dinner with a friend in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and over a heaping pile of pad see ew and pumpkin curry she hits me up with what is definitely the most intriguing philosophical/lifestyle concept that I’ve encountered all year.
Basically– when confronted with the need to make a big/ important life decision– she asks herself:
“Do I REALLY want to ______?” (i.e. do whatever thing she’s thinking about doing)
If the answer is not a giant, resounding @!$& YES!, then the answer is NO.
And she acts accordingly.
This concept immediately and simultaneously blew my mind and quietly triggered intense metaphysical agita and internal grievances (unrelated to my meal).
Was this the secret to living a life of intense purpose and satisfaction, or an overly simplistic novelty that would likely land me in decision-making paralysis or trouble (or both)?
* * *
While I have been playing with the concept of saying “yes” to (almost) everything over the past seven weeks of quasi-freeform travel, I can’t say how many of those yeses were of the resolutely self-assured variety.
Usually the self-assured “yes” would be utterly predictable, as in: “Should we go out and get ice cream now?”
Um, how is that even a question? Of course we should go out and get ice cream now!
Sometimes, the “yes” would follow a moment of actual (but ultimately insignificant) deliberation, as in, “Should we go out and get ice cream now, even though we went out and got ice cream yesterday?”
Um… maybe, possibly we shouldn’t, but… YES! Again, how is this even a question?
And every now and then there’d be the “massive struggle to overcome introversion and/or inertia ‘yes,'” wherein I’d reluctantly agree to go out and be social, despite my inner Mr. Crankypants telling me I’d probably be happier reading a book all night.
Most of the time, I was glad that “I had to say yes.” Without that rule, I probably would have said no.
And that’s what intrigued me about this philosophy.
If I wasn’t totally feeling the “for-sure yes,” would having said “no” have been better than a “begrudging yes”? Somehow I don’t think so.
We’re basically talking about whether or not to go out for drinks on a Tuesday.
(Of course, because I don’t really drink, this is actually a question of whether or not to engage in social activity with friends.)
Not exactly a life-altering decision.
So… what about when the stakes are much higher?
Generally, we’re going to try to avoid investing our time in an obvious “no” situation, but can we afford to invest in something we find not-terrible, but less-than-enthralling (i.e., an ambivalent “yes”)?
Or should we hold out for that @!$& YES!?
Even if that means passing up on a “not my dream, but I guess it’ll do” situation?
* * *
I don’t know, my friends.
I do know that I can’t answer these questions for you.
We all have different life situations, dreams, expectations, comfort levels, etc.
All I can say is, I feel like it’s increasingly difficult to ignore/run from the undeniable YESes in my head, that– for whatever reason– I’m still not fully committed to.
I think that was the point of this latest round of travel– to gain some insight into (and commitment towards) what really, truly drives me. (And not just what I think should drive me.)
When I’m on the road, living out of a backpack, with virtually unlimited choices regarding how I spend my time and energy, it’s easier to see (and feel) what matters most to me.
Seven weeks after hitting the road, I think I can say that my adventure was both worthwhile and productive.
I’m still finding it difficult to transcend my ambivalence– to self-assuredly choose my YES! situations.
What will it take to break this old pattern?
I’m tired of making big announcements and abandoning projects.
I’d rather just choose my YES!(es) and relentlessly pursue it (them) without second-guessing myself.
* * *
I don’t know, my friends.
(But I really do.)
My friend is onto something.
What would it be like to live a passionate life on utter purpose, without all of that draining, obnoxious ambivalence?
There’s only one way to know.