It’s a question that I myself often get overwhelmed with. After all, I can’t even choose how I want to fill a day, let alone a life of days. But this wouldn’t be my favorite T-shirt if I thought the question was demanding. (Considering the question literally sits right on my chest, I probably wouldn’t be able to wear it without my chest tightening up.) I wear it because it reminds me to be excited about the question, rather than daunted by it. Instead of a melodramatic take on it, I can be enlivened by it. I imagine it phrased like how a parent would ask a child in the candy store, “What do you want to buy?” and the child responding with wide-eyes and a million colors swirling through their heads. Of course, I’ve always been indecisive, so whenever anyone asks me what I want I usually take a really long time deciding. But I’m trying to learn to be excited by choices rather than overwhelmed by them, and to learn to make decisions without attaching so much life or death weight to them (unless, of course, it is a life or death matter, in which case the head in my hands overwhelmed position is acceptable).
I’m at a point in my life where I have so much ahead of me, and I so badly want to make the most of everything that comes my way––every painting I see, every interaction I have, every new place I visit, I want to get something out of it. It seems like a good mindset, except that I try too hard. In trying to figure out how to make the most out of life, I'm losing out on life. So even once I choose the "fig," it's dropping in front of me while I’m trying to figure out the best way to pick it.
My favorite question to ask people right now is, "What did you major in?" followed by, "What do you do for work?" which is sometimes followed by, "Is that what you see yourself doing long-term?" More often than not, the people I talk to aren't exactly where they want to be, nor does where they are directly correspond with what they went to college for. Their paths aren't linear, and that's what makes their lives interesting. We don't have to know exactly where we're going. All we have to do is look at what's right in front of us, and know that it's all a part of our overall experience. Not everything has to correlate, and things may correlate in ways we don't see right away, until we get to the end and finally everything seems to fit together so seemingly perfectly that it seems like it couldn't have happened any other way. It's like at the end of a mystery novel when you finally find out "who did it" and you flip back and wonder how you didn't see it coming, because everything seems to connect so perfectly. What I'm learning from talking to people is that there is no one "right way to do life."
That energy I felt when that woman shook my hand embodies the excitement of Mary Oliver's question. I thought about how my math teacher gave me a hug at the end of the year. "Good luck, kiddo," he said. I thought about my classes for this semester, and how next month at this time I will be preparing to head off for Denison University. I thought about working in the scene shop, all the plays I will get to direct, spending long hours in the theatre, and all the people I'll meet. I get to make this life my own. And that's an empowering thing, one not to melodramatize, but to celebrate.