The Pros & Cons of Having Options...

In talking to a number of friends over the past few weeks, I've realized that even with our varied standings in life, we're much more similar than we are different.  Some are happily single. Some are not-so-happily married. Some have lived on their own for years. Some are still in their mama's house, saving up those dollars until they can move on up like the Jeffersons. Some have children, some are still too selfish for such a feat. However, we're all relatively in the same age range, and we're all looking for something more.

A homegirl and I were chatting and saying that back a generation ago, we would have already been married, with 2 or 3 kids, settled into our careers, and that would have been that. Taking care of the chirrun, working our regular shifts at whatever job we held, and doing the best to manage both worlds would have been our daily grind. These days, though, our biggest pro is also sometimes our biggest con: the ability to have options.

These days, forks in the road don't just split two ways - they split 3, 4, 5, or more...and those splits also branch off and split into infinite amounts of choices for what we can do with our lives. And not only that, we can SEE almost all of these forks in the road, but unfortunately we can't see where they all lead. Quite ironic for me, because as a child one of my favourite book series was the Choose Your Own Adventure books....where every few pages, you would have a choice. If you chose to follow the witch into the forest, you'd turn to page 103. If you chose to hitch a ride with a prince on horseback, you'd turn to page 74. Sometimes I would cheat...flip to both pages and see which outcome I liked better. But this is real life....and most times we don't get to preview our life's decisions before making them.

Growing up as the eldest child of immigrant Caribbean parents, they typically held the belief that you do well in school, get a good job, and move your way up in your company until you're at the top - AND set the example for your younger siblings. Sometimes when I express the desire to do something new, or to explore a personal interest, I'm met with anything from support to questions about what title I'll have or what kind of money it will pay. And I know that with my parentals, those questions aren't due to a snooty, nose-in-the-air attitude, but out of  sincere concern for my well-being. I always appreciate that, but sometimes find myself at a loss for words when trying to explain myself...then sometimes those dreams start to sound stupid when I attempt to quantify them, and I decide to put it on hold.

A lot of my friends are in the same boat, it seems. For 20- and 30-somethings these days, life is a juggling act, and it's a strategic game of chess. Which move do you make, and when? Do you settle on one passion, or try to tackle as many as your heart desires? What if you choose to pursue one goal, then after 10 years in that field, you choose to jump ship and try your hand at something else? And what happens if you fail? Our generation doesn't have the same loyalty to the companies they work for, but we're still in a crappy economy with poor job development. We typically don't stay with one company until retirement like our parents do/did, but can we afford to take the risk to move on after a few years? And how do we balance the "good job" that makes our loved ones proud and pays the bills, with a true passion that may take more from our pockets than it puts in? The lucky ones of us will find a way to marry the two...but others of us will struggle with that.

Some friends have fought for new promotions at their current company. Some have left their stable jobs altogether and started their own companies. Some work a regular 9-5 and moonlight as a (insert profession/practice/passion here). Some have gotten married and started families right away. Some have gone back to school, and some are still damn well trying to figure out their next move. At the end of the day, I feel that the pros of choice outweigh the cons. I'd much rather be frustrated at the multitude of things I could do with my life than be frustrated at being pigeonholed. At the end of the day, we all want to be happy - and cryptically, half the fun is in figuring it out. As Jay-Z says in Renegade: "I drove past the fork in the road and went straight..."  Options can be overwhelming, but carving our own path and getting to our own destination of fulfillment is key.

All I can say to my friends and anyone else who feels this struggle is, you're not alone and you WILL get there...see you at the top!

Seen on the Scene

Friday Night Lights