A Multiple-Choice Kind Of Life

Which is harder? Multiple choice or fill in the blanks?

Okay, so there are some funny aspects to being in the In Between. It’s not all existential angst and wondering. (Well, maybe 92 percent of it is, but that’s the way my personality works and I’m not fretting about changing that. Things you can’t control… etc etc.)

So what’s funny is the laundry list of options I’ve considered for my next steps in life for how to support myself. Ready? I swear these are all real. And they do all sound plausible, but um, they’re pretty all over the map. I guess if you’re going to be floating loose in life, you may as well cast a wide net, right?

—Become a therapist to help people get through rough transitions in life
—Become a therapist, and then write books about resilience as an expert and then create an inspiring TV show about how people get through hard times
—Move to Virginia and become a part-time professor at my college (well, they did offer me a visiting professorship…. that I decided I couldn’t take. Bummer.)
—Become a journalism professor anywhere, to try to prepare students for the intense flux in the industry these days
—Move to Canada because I like it there and it’s not America (hating politics these days and obsessing over Canada lately)
—Take all my money and buy a house in the Adirondacks (and a Sno Cat for winter) and grow all my own food
—Create fantastically interesting hybrid job in media that moves convergence forward and puts me in a revenue stream position, instead of in the “you spend all the money” camp I used to be in
—Shun media forever and go corporate because I know brand strategy, audience development, and creative management
—Write full-time for a living (whoops, can’t support yourself in NYC on that)
—Go work for a non-profit organization, running it, preferably
—Actually move to Canada with a real job! (A magazine company thing floated by me, but didn’t turn into anything. *sigh*)
—Go work for a huge internet website—oh wait, they offered me what I was making in 1998
—Sell all my cool ideas about how companies can better reach women to PR agencies
—Go work for a PR agency; I mean, they pay, right?
—Write second book, and third book, and fourth book (all good ideas, I swear!)
—Launch a movement called Beyond Balance that tells the truth about American women’s lives right now as the world as we know it keeps tipping sideways
—Become an agent for all the amazingly talented people I see on the internets (probably can’t support myself on that, either)

Annnnnnnnnnnnd, the most recent obsession is:
—Move to Rhinbeck, NY to a beautiful property with a lake (I have a real-estate listing of it bookmarked, and I visit it once or twice a day) and write for a living, because once you’re out of commuting range to NYC, you can actually afford the houses.

Problem is that means (1) leaving NYC, (2) moving my son into a huge transition, (3) moving my son away from his father, (4) moving my son away from the support and services it’s taken me three years to get into place, (5) putting me and my boyfriend in the situation of deciding whether we’re “in it to win it,” (6) believing that I can scare up enough writing work to support myself, (7) moving into a rural setting where I won’t have neighbors 4 feet away (what if I’m lonely?), (8) choosing a life where I won’t eat at restaurants four times a week… And so on and so forth.

So, you know, that’s what I’ve been doing the past 12 months! Coming up with possibilities, exploring them, and letting them simmer in my mind. Though frankly, there’s no stove big enough to simmer this many pots. Maybe that’s why I can’t make a decision.

Hey, let’s have a vote! What do you think I should do for a living? Which option do you pick? I’ll help you with your list!

But all joking aside, this is what’s true in life: We can choose to start again, at any time. It’s just that we lack the faith, we focus on the fear, we believe we’re tied to circumstance, we believe the people we love aren’t flexible, we are happier in the uncertainty we know than in the happiness that might be waiting for us. We think that life is multiple choice—a series of conscripted choices—rather than a fill-in-the-blanks test. And of course we do that: if we narrow our vision, we have less vastness to challenge and terrify us. But if we narrow our vision? Well…. then we narrow our vision.

It’s terribly confusing. Poor humans. We barely have a chance! *wink*

About stacy

I am a writer, author, mother, former magazine editor (last at Redbook), optimist, and, above all, a searcher. I'm still searching for whom I'm really meant to be, after a series of very jarring losses: a divorce and house disaster that led to a book (Falling Apart In One Piece); a week after the book came out, my parents suddenly fell gravely ill, I resigned from my job (and, apparently, my career), my son went into crisis, my parents then rapidly died four weeks apart, and my boyfriend (who had moved in with me and my son just weeks before the book came out) began the painful journey of realizing we couldn't make our relationship work (that story unfolded on this blog). Since then I've been trying to figure out what's next. Or, in other words, how to fill in the blanks.
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17 Responses to A Multiple-Choice Kind Of Life

  1. zen davis says:

    Stacy- I am so in this same place right now. Practical vs “impractical” is consuming me. I decided to give it til the divorce and big move before I get serious. Last time round I didn’t think about it-just jumped into the first job in a Dr’s office I could find. And though I wasn’t happy there completely, in many ways I was. Thanks for posting this and for what it’s worth- I vote for the book about transition and being in the interim. It seems hard to tackle it while still in the interim, but perhaps that’s how you’ll get to the other side (whatever that is. ) 🙂

  2. nova c. says:

    —Become a therapist or journalism professor or create fantastically interesting hybrid job in media, and then write books, and create an inspiring TV show about how people get through hard times…i think you need to keep your son and yourself where you are(location wise); and just GO FOR WHATEVER IDEA DRIVES YOUR PASSION! that way you have time to get him raised and on his way, plus do something that you enjoy doing…and still take the time to make sure if your personal life is on track.

  3. Rita Arens says:

    Wow, this is quite the list. I do see the theme running through it, though. I am a good snap-decision maker when the metrics are obvious, like money, but after a certain earning point money is just one factor of many.

    I spent years working a job I hated to live up to my earning potential, which I still don’t think I ever realized. I’m still waiting for someone to tap what I think I can do or to make that happen myself, but I have the child and the mortgage and the husband and the half, too. And I’ve thought honestly about what I could’ve done differently if I’d just kept earning that money longer and saved it so I could write full-time. I have moved closer to my dreams with my career, but I have given up a lot of cush in order to do what I love, and it does impact your home life and what you have the ability to do in life — travel, fix up the house, offer better educational opportunities for your kid, retire earlier, help out family, afford the conveniences that would vastly increase free time to spend with family, etc.

    These are important questions, and once you have relationships and children, the decisions aren’t totally your own, which you so eloquently pointed out.

    The surest money would be to go corporate or go PR, but that might also come with the tightest constraints and the most unhappiness — layers of bureaucracy, shareholders, set office hours.

    The services you’ve put in place are a big consideration, but I’m sure they have experts in other parts of the country or in Canada — that would just require research, which you’re good at doing. I wouldn’t completely let that be a decision-maker, just another factor.

    Relationships don’t break due to distance or moves — they are taps that test for fissures that were already there.

    The therapist options would require more schooling, and it’s a zoo out there with insurance companies.

    The teaching would be enjoyable but probably low-paid.

    There’s nothing to say you can’t do all of these things — you just have to do them one at a time. Which one do you want to do first? That’s my approach. I’m doing this, now. When my daughter is older and doesn’t need my focus so intensely, I’ll do the next thing. And then when I retire, I’ll do something else again.

  4. stacy says:

    Thank you all for your votes, so much to chew on. And Rita, I just have to say I love you. Your lovely non-answer is actually incredibly helpful. I do feel very pulled by The Other Life right now, the one in Rhinebeck. It’s the option that has come alive with the most dimension and possible-seeming. And it’s also one of the options that will allow me to shift my life from Living By My Goals (financial, success and otherwise) to Living By My Principles (help others, live a life where you can pay attention, be present for your family). Which just seems like the right direction, no? Hmm… To ponder some more.

  5. zen davis says:

    Wanted to add that I truly feel that you should go toward what feeds your soul and the rest will fall into place. It’s a calling. And in my case every time I try to force the practical answer, I am bombarded with pushing and shoving from the universe back toward the “impractical.” You are far more organized and experienced than me in the field and I have complete confidence you’ll find your way. I can’t wait to see/read what you do next!

  6. Lindsey says:

    I agree with Rita that there is a real theme running through these – I like the Beyond Balance/PR/media convergence angle, and I can also relate to the seductive appeal of the Other Life, the one that is totally different. Much harder to go down that road with those pesky short and loud people in our lives, though, isn’t it? xoxo

  7. Suzanne says:

    Sounds like the one you’re most passionate about is Rhinebeck… and if that one allows you to comfortably explore all the others…even better. Reading this post, it dawned on me that I’ve been tossing similar ideas around in my mind … about starting fresh.. so it’s now time to make my own ‘options’ list. Thanks!

  8. Al Bacon says:

    Before you make a decision you need to find your strengths. It is never wise to go into battle without checking your amunition, whether a physical war with guns or a spiritual war with hunches, feelings, or desires. In your case you will find that you have the ability to write and be read and that is your amunition, write another book or even better, put those things in place which would allow you to start a magazine dealing with those issues you have dealt with. You can find magazines dealing with how to cook a meal, how to plant a garden, how to keep your man happy in the bedroom, but your magazine could be how to get up in the morning and make each day a good one mentally and emotionally dealing with that aspect of life.

  9. Stacy, I agree with so much that Rita has said (wise woman). And I totally see the Rhinebeck thing pulling to and really working for you. The one caveat is that I have heard that Dutchess county services for kids can be really spotty, unless you’re going private pay, and then there’s some great folks up there – but it will cost you a fair amount of money. I’m sure if it’s what you decide you will find a way to make it work. Looking forward to the next development…

  10. Amanda says:

    My vote is that you move to Canada and write books full time! For a couple of reasons: a) you are an amazing writer and your book was chock-a-block full of amazing advice on resiliance and optimism in the face of a totally shit time; and b) you and I could actually have that celebratory glass of champagne for having chosen optimism in the face of greif and sadness.

    But that’s just me. 🙂

  11. zak says:

    sadly, none of us can tell you what to do.

    now that you’ve brainstormed all the possibilities — can you narrow it down to the most compelling ones?

    as for your concerns, are they self-limiting beliefs or actual blocks to getting what you really want?

    I’ve managed to narrow down my interests, I just need to convince a company that does that sort of work that I merit being hired to do that thing I’ve never done before. If I’m going to spend most of my life working doggedly, at the very least I should be able to do something I’m passionate about, right?

    If you’re not already reading Danielle Laporte’s and Marie Florio’s blogs, I highly suggest you sign up for their newsletters. It’s weekly inspiration in your inbox that gets you thinking about what matters in your life. Tinybuddha.com also has that effect.

  12. Couldn’t help but chuckle a little, in recognition. Only substitute “Paris” for every iteration of Canada…

    (*soupir*)

  13. LisaAR says:

    Wow. Thanks, Stacy, for putting words around so much of what is swimming inside my head. Thanks to all the comment givers, too–I feel a sense of community in the “transitional life chapter” that I am on the precipice of…Now, if I could only figure out how far down the drop is…and where I’ll land.

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us. It helps me feel a tad less crazy. Hope it helps you, too, to know that there are people that share in your challenges and are cheering you on as you face them!

    • stacy says:

      Lisa, welcome! I’m so delighted to have company in my ambiguity. Which is why I started this blog. Right now the world is refiguring itself in a sideways way, challenging all that we ever thought was true about “security,” and we haven’t been at a point like this in the U.S. in oh, about 90 years. So I’m very glad to have found such a great rapport with so many so quickly. Here’s to stumbling, together.

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