Welcome to Reality

As I watched bug-eyed and nervously, I realized that life is very similar to a “Game 7” in a sports playoff series.

Maybe it was the abundance of alcohol I had consumed, which I can thank all my gracious friends for as it was a birthday gathering for me. (And to whoever handed me the “lemon drop” and made me take the shot against my will, I will find you.) But I woke up (hungover) today and felt the same exact way, that each day in a person’s life presents a sequence of choices to make which can impact your life. And it doesn’t even have to be something extraordinarily important or mentally overwhelming, but think of it like this:

You go to a 7-11 to buy a candy bar. You’re standing in the aisle, chortling your goatee as the long-haired and bloodshot-eyed cashier seems to be thinking about why he heats up taquitos for a living. You’re looking and looking, wondering whether to pick a Kit-Kat because it’s been ages since you last “gave yourself a break.” Then you decide you’d rather eat something with chocolate AND caramel, so you grab the Twix. Then your mind keeps playing tricks on you until you have decided that you just can’t decide; the whole operation is a bust and you will end up leaving with a bag of flavored popcorn instead.

And that’s life. Why is it that the most minuscule of decisions can be the most damning? Just like one funny bounce could have resurrected the Detroit Red Wings from the depths of playoff obscurity and into the next round, our lives are all the same way. There’s an old maxim, Where there’s a will there’s a way … but the problem isn’t the will; it’s how to figure out the correct way to do something, how to make the right decision when each choice we make has implications. We can choose the hunky, old used vehicle over the Corvette and realize that our insurance will be lower and we will probably get more miles per gallon, but so many of us choose the flash over the average. Why is that?

Have we as a society sunk into new depths of consumerism and idealism and all the other “isms” that we no longer have respect for ourselves? Or maybe people do it because they respect themselves too much, think of themselves too highly. I always wonder why some people have it bad and some people have it good, then expand my horizons to incorporate everybody who is either in between or off the edge of the scale. Was it bad choices they made or were they brought into a bad situation to begin with? When you don’t have many choices, you don’t have many opportunities to right the wrongs in your life.

Every day is a battle — with yourself, with your friends, with your family, with your co-workers, with the outside world. One wrong choice can ruin your day … your life, in some instances. You keep choosing those Big Macs over the fresh garden salad and you will feel the wrath of a spare tire in your midsection, not to mention the increased possibilities of a sudden heart attack rocking your world. You still want fries with that?

When we get older we are supposed to make the right decisions and control the things we have power over. I remember reading a story a couple months back about the United States’ oldest human being, and I believe it was a female. Of all the interesting things that had gone on in decade upon decade of this person’s life, there were some quotes that really stuck out to me, such as the fact that she drank and smoked and wasn’t on any special diets. She just … lived the way she wanted and was lucky to live to tell about it, and still does as far as I know.

Maybe I worry too much about things that don’t really matter. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I’m just trying to find the right formula to sustain a happy life, which can sometimes be a struggle. Not every decision is a key to Pandora’s box, but it’s also not a case of cold beer, either. We can strategize like hockey teams and hope that everything turns out OK in the long run, and as Andy Dufresne once noted, “Hope is a beautiful thing.” He also said it’s not the best of things.

I tend to think that the majority of my choices have turned out well for me and have satisfied me in one way or another. I chose to chase my dream of being a  sports journalist and it’s paid off in some regards, although ironically not in monetary reimbursement. But even when the economy started to tank while I was in college, I never wavered or thought to myself, I really need to change my major, the major I chose when I was five years old, and become an engineer like the rest of ’em. It was never an option for me, but it was actually a choice I made for myself without even knowing it. I see my friends make good pay for their age, working in cubicles or processing numbers for a living without shedding one spec of uncertainty about their careers — at least in front of the rest of us. But whenever I am asked about working in a newsroom or getting to cover sports for a living, it takes me to a place I envisioned 15 years ago as a young boy who had a dream. Not many others can say they have known what they wanted to do for basically their entire lives.

But I can. I made a choice that ultimately makes me happy and it will pay off in greater amounts one of these days. It was one in a long series of decisions I have made over the course of my life, some good and some bad. Sometimes it’s just not worth asking, What if I did this? and thinking about something in retrospect. Just move on and make the right decision the next time around.

And me? Well, I’ll take the Kit-Kat.

Children wake up,
hold your mistake up,
before they turn the summer into dust.
If the children don’t grow up,
our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We’re just a million little gods causin’ rain storms turnin’ every good thing to
rust.

– Arcade Fire, Wake Up

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