I’m terrible at making decisions. It’s an odd truth, because I’ve been told by a lot of my friends that I’m great at making decisions, and they often consult me for advice or leave the final verdict on our plans up to me.
I feel like an imposter, because in fact I rarely do make actual decisions. I’m just exceptionally comfortable with existing in a kind of limbo that makes others uneasy. When it was getting close to college graduation, I had a job lined up, but I told most people that I would just as quickly have gone home and stayed with my parents. I’m currently in a job that I intend to be with for no longer than another year, and have nothing in mind for the future and yet I’m entirely at ease where many of my friends are in a panic over a similar situation. When my friends ask me to make our plans, I’ll close my eyes and point and don’t have particularly strong feelings over whether the evening goes well or not. Somehow my pervading neutrality comes across as strong decision making skills. I basically just wait until the last minute, then just pull the trigger on whatever sounds best and roll with it as best I can. Maybe the fact that this has worked out well for me makes people think I do it on purpose, and that my decisions are well thought out.
Most of the good things in my life have fallen into my lap while I was too busy trying to make a decision, at least when it comes to the big decisions. My college scholarship fell into my lap through a series of happy coincidences that involved a random comment from a friend of mine before I took the PSAT. I chose my major in a point and shoot process, not taking much time to think about what it meant for my future. All of the organizations I got involved with were either foisted onto me by faculty who appreciated my attentiveness in class, or I joined to spend more time with friends. I’m an expert at letting time run out on the clock and just rolling with whatever comes from that. I Hail Mary the shit out of my life. In fact, whenever I do try to proactively make a decision it seems to backfire.
To my elders I appear unusually wise and self-possessed for my age. There’s always an expression – a look that passes over their faces when I say something they’re not accustomed to hearing someone my age say. It’s a mix of surprise and respect and I relish it whole-heartedly. Often times with older men that look is followed immediately by another, one that suggests that I’ve suddenly climbed the ranks from attractive child to genuine prospect. Suddenly the conversation has much more pitch and verve, they seem to take an excessive amount of joy in launching themselves into a full on conversation where previously they were holding back, sure that we had nothing in common. They find an odd maturity in my willingness to embrace the unknown.
I don’t hold back from making decisions because I’m afraid, I do it because I want to know every possible outcome of every possible combination. I want to know what happens if I make a left and if I make a right. I’ve known this about myself for a long time, but for most of my life I did what most kids do and made decisions based on what I was supposed to do. I’m immensely guarded, so any personal decisions were made in an effort to keep myself from crying. The depressed eating when I didn’t quite fit in, followed by losing 20 pounds when I realized no one likes fat middle school girls.
Now that I’m an adult I realize I have a tendency to get myself into trouble because I’ll let a scenario play all the way out, just for the sake of seeing how it ends. I fancy myself an objective third party observer to my own life and forget about that place where my life intersects others, about the weight that I can hold there. I remain as placid as possible for fear of disrupting the environment, of affecting the outcome.
Yesterday, The Pumpkin and I were on our way to the West Village when I was propositioned by a young man. He was handsome, vaguely exotic and, as we would come to find out, brash. He yelled to get my attention on the D train platform at Atlantic Avenue. I responded, embarrassed, unsure what to say to his shouting, since he had drawn the attention of the entire platform.
“Hey, DREAD, where you goin’?” He wanted to know if The Pumpkin was “my woman” when I didn’t immediately engage him. He eventually realized yelling at me across the platform wasn’t going to work, and came to stand beside me. He wanted to know where we were going. I told him Washington Square Park, which wasn’t exactly true, but it was the first downtown landmark to come to mind.
“Y’all going to smoke?”
His question drew a guffaw from The Pumpkin, and I snorted, “No, are you going to smoke?”
“Hell yeah, I’m gonna go smoke and drink. You should come with me.”
This boy was obviously a teenager, maybe 17. He would tell me he was from Carol City, Florida, and was in town visiting his aunt in New Jersey. He wore a naïve, impish smile the entire time he spoke to me, as though he was going to get into as much trouble as possible, but could easily find himself in over his head. His train came before ours, and while the train sat in the station he made one last effort to get me on the train with him.
As he called my name and waved to beckon me onto the train, I was reminded of another experience. My freshman year of college, on my first real date, waiting for the D.C. metro. A group of boys, some I knew and some I didn’t came down the stairs. My date and I struck up a conversation and before long the boys invited us to go to a party in Georgetown with them. My date loved parties. As the train waited in the station, the boys made one last effort to get my date and I on the train with them. I shrugged my shoulders and walked onto the waiting subway car.
But Carol City had yet to acknowledge The Pumpkin’s existence, and possibly for that reason alone, I said no. It’s not as though I didn’t know the little boy’s intentions, or that I was taking his advances seriously in any way. Rather it was the possibility of the unknown, the idea that jumping onto a random train with an underage hoodlum was an actual possibility. I think it’s been the goal of my indecisiveness to leave as many of these doors open as possible. As I get older, I realize just how impossible that is. Refusing to make choices just leaves me with little to no control over my own life. It’s time for me to start making decisions. Maybe I’ll be as good at it as everyone already thinks I am.