Whenever I’m in the midst of a tough decision, I look for signs. I look for metaphors. I look for anything that will help me reason through this enormous stress because I have to know that someone or something in the world is looking out for me. This can’t just be me all on my own. Life must be hiding clues for me; once I find the clues, I’ll have the answer. Then I’ll know how to treat life, what to do with it. Because how could life possibly trust me enough to live it myself?
I am currently in the midst of one of these life-changing decisions. I’m making choices about people, places, and my future, and I’m searching desperately for an answer that comes from anywhere but my own head. It feels like I’ve thought about everything there is to think about, and at this point I simply need life to put the answer in front of me. I may be mentally exhausted, but I’m sure I’ll be clever enough to find this sign.
Last night, I thought I’d found it. My favorite pair of shoes, which I’ve owned for seven years, recently walked their last road (and a great road it was: Central Park). I’m still in the process of letting go, and last night I took out their beat-up laces and transferred them into some much newer, much snazzier shoes. Cue all of the metaphors about moving on, mixing the old with the new, whatever you want. All of this happened as I was on my way out the door, and suddenly I was paralyzed mid-lace on the floor, frozen like a cool special effect in a movie, feeling so close to having found an answer.
And then I said to myself, “Leah, it’s shoelaces. Get up and get out the door.”
We have to process the things that happen in our lives, and sometimes we do that by justifying them as “meant to be.” We can map out the moments that led to any significant life event, but when it comes to making decisions about the future, we’ve put ourselves in a handicap. We’re so used to patterns and miracles and destiny and fate that we stop giving ourselves any credit at all. Yes, I can make some significant statement about life from the simple act of lacing up my shoes. But does that mean that I should base my life decisions upon this act? I’ve become so hyperaware of all the possible signs the universe is handing me that I’m not even thinking about myself.
Maybe it’s possible that, no matter what I choose, it will be right because I will make it right. We can’t look for clues in the present as though they’ve been left here by the future; there is no invisible sign pointing us in the right direction. All we can do is commit to being the kind of person we hope to become at the end while we’re on the way. I may not know where I’m headed, but the destination isn’t as important as how I deal with what I’m given when I get there. My future will not be handed to me as a pre-completed plan, and I am not on a scavenger hunt to find it. I need to remove my focus from my shoelaces and turn it within. I need to give myself credit for running my life and forgive myself for not knowing exactly how to find my path. I need to build myself up and prepare myself for anything, because ultimately we don’t get to choose what happens to us. Frankly, we waste a lot of time trying. I hereby propose that we all stop looking for the perfect answer and the perfect direction, and instead simply try to be our perfect selves- our most fulfilled, most happy, most contributing selves, because our selves are the only things we have control over anyway.
The future is important, and so is making the right choices. I won’t deny that we should put our best effort forward. But I will say that there is no one right answer, no one right direction- translate that, and it means that there’s also no wrong answer, and no reason to ever give up. I don’t need to overwhelm myself in the present just because I don’t know my future; instead, I just need to try every day to be the person I want to become.
So, I’m going to tie up my shoelaces, revel in their wisdom for just a moment, and then I’m going to walk out the door and let life handle the rest.