‘Not going is a decision too,’ commented my friend as she passed me a vodka martini—ice cold and three olives; the only way to drink it. I had just confided my dilemma in her. I was about to make a life-changing decision, and my brain wouldn’t offer me a solid yay or nay. I could cite the pros and cons in my sleep, yet here I was, stuck in decision paralysis.
For over a year now, I had been in a long-distance relationship with my then-boyfriend. Our relationship was going well, but every goodbye, we felt a niggle. Some days we would talk about it. Other times we just enjoyed a final drink before a last-minute dash to departures.
I had moved countries before, and I knew what was involved. I had lived in my boyfriend’s city when I was a student. I don’t think I was afraid of emigrating. I was more concerned with leaving my whole life behind; my parents and siblings, the first job I ever really loved, and my close friends. All I could see were roadblocks: What about my apartment? I had only recently bought it. Would someone buy it off me, or maybe I should get a tenant in? Did my cat need to go into quarantine? How would she take to living in a new house with a man allergic to fur?
It’s only now, looking back, I can see why my brain was so muddled. Indeed, I didn’t ask myself the question I should have because I was afraid. But was everything I was giving up worth what I would potentially gain? Was our relationship secure enough? How much would I miss my family? Could I find a new job to replace my much-loved job? What about my cat? Would she survive the journey?
When confronted with a life-changing decision, it’s not uncommon to freeze. An inability to choose between two options (known as decision or choice paralysis) is common when confronted with choices we can’t correctly oversee, and therefore find it hard to compare. In my case, while I knew what my life was like in my hometown, I couldn’t predict what my potential existence in my boyfriend’s city would offer. I lived there before, but student living is different from a reality where I would pay taxes, a mortgage, and perhaps start a family.
There is a concept called opportunity cost in economics, meaning you need to weigh what you will lose with what you stand to gain. The object is to come out on top.
So, what would happen if I didn’t go? My boyfriend didn’t speak my native language, so office jobs would have been hard to come by. In comparison, I had a much bigger opportunity to continue and improve on my career. I had also maintained contact with my friends from college. Hence, logically, the onus was on me to move. But if I didn’t go, how would our relationship progress? Would it fizzle out eventually? Would I always regret not taking this opportunity to make a go at life with him by my side? The thought of potentially losing the love of my life made my head spin.
The problem with choice paralysis is that the more complex or essential your decision, the more energy the analysis before making the decision costs, causing fatigue. And it was there, at that moment, when my friend released me by her remark.
All this time, I had viewed it wrong. I had thought that to go was taking the decision. A decision I could come to regret. To stay was staying in the status quo. But my friend told me that not going was in effect a decision too, an active decision I could regret. With that one line, she permitted me to view my puzzle in a different light. It was almost like she allowed me to go. And I did.
Despite some initial wobbles, I am happy overall. So is my cat. I love raising my children here. And I realize that every year, I feel a little more at home. So, thank you, Beatrice. It may have been a throwaway comment to you, but you will never know how much it meant to me.