Friday, July 4, 2008

Leaps of faith

Jay recently made an important decision.

We talked about it yesterday on the drive home from Rockport.

He asked his husband and me, "What's the best decision you've ever made in your life?"

I have always dwelt more on the decisions I've regretted than the ones I didn't. By the time I was 25, I had 5 manuscripts -- every one of them about regret. The last of these centers around the idea that each of us harbors a Basic Regret . Every decision we make afterward is an attempt to justify -- if not actually redeem -- that one. It never works, of course.

I consider the college years that inspired that story the single greatest experience of my life. It is what -- to borrow a phrase from Annie Dillard -- made a woman out of a girl. But it was a passive sort of decision, if you can call it a decision at all. I didn't even choose the school -- my guidance counselor did. I followed the instructions on the form.

Moving to Boston is easily the most important decision I made. Everything that I am today, all that I have achieved and experienced, came from that decision. I can't imagine who or what I would have been if I had returned to Virginia. I believe if I had stayed in Texas I would have made a life there, simply by following the path laid out for me, and I may have achieved many of the same things (in a different flavor) but I don't know that I would have been particularly happy about it.

I might consider that move to Texas my Basic Regret, except I know the reasons I did it were to justify other regrettable decisions; and that thread gets tangled when I try to follow it.

I thought we should define our terms. It is so Hollins seminar of me. What do we mean by "best" ? What do we mean by "made"?

In my INTJ mind, to make a decision is an investment of the most intellectually active kind. One reaches the decision the same way one proves an academic argument: by forming a hypothesis and proving it through research and supportive reasoning. (I realize not everyone does this. I use "one" here to avoid talking about myself so directly. That's the "I." I don't know what they do do, and don't care to discuss it. That's the "TJ.") So when I think of the category of decisions, they are those events; but few of them are milestones and none of them seem interesting enough to rank as Good-Better-Best.

The life-changing events like college and Texas, like entering student affairs and leaving it, did not get that kind of scrutiny. The 1996 sabbatical was a good decision. Maybe that was my best decision.

"And even then," I said to the Boys, "It wasn't the kind of decision you say, 'that was a good decision' about. It was just sort of a blind faith decision."

"I think that's what I mean," said Jay.

He's no INTJ, as you can see. That's why he's so good for me.

1 comment:

  1. And sometimes the best decisions you make are actually the most painful/worst-at-the-time/total life derailment that end up defining you in some ways. Not necesarily pheonix-from-the-ashes... but close... blind faith or leap of faith that ends up as a big FAIL, etc.


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