risk, decision-making and dreaming

Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey "people." People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war.... Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest. ~C.S. Lewis

It is not a secret that I have struggled with being decisive. I think this is because I am afraid of doing the wrong thing, of ignoring my instinct, or not hearing it in the first place. But perhaps Lewis is right, perhaps there is no right instinct. Maybe life is made up of various paths, circuits and following one over the other is simply a decision that takes you down one path that will eventually get you to wherever it is you're meant to be. Do you believe in meant to be? 

When I was younger, I imagined all kinds of possibilities for my life. I was a daydreamer. I made plans, thought about where I might live, what kind of job I might have. And then I started doing and in some ways, I stopped dreaming, at least in fantastical ways. The practicalities of life began to override my daydreams about traveling to Costa Rica in search of a rare tree frog or living in a New York loft throwing amazing parties on the rooftop with a view of the city. Dreams are not meant to be practical, I'm learning, though some of my true heart's dreams still kind of are. 

I was a big dreamer, with big ideas and a feeling that I was meant for something great. My family was incredibly supportive of pretty much anything I wanted to do, changing my major, going to Europe (well, maybe not as much), undertaking a Master's, moving to Illinois for my Ph.D. Once in a Ph.D. program, I felt at home. It was exactly where I belonged even if I had no idea what I was foing most of the time. I just made a decision and followed through. I have never regretted it. 

I'm in the middle of job searching right now and the weight of decisions feels heavy. The past few years have been full of me questioning my path, wondering if I've made the right choices, wondering what else is out there for me. I've thought about detours and timing and proving grounds. I've come to terms with mistakes I've made and realized exactly what I do not want to do and how to improve what I do want to do. I have learned about clarity and silence and what happens when who you are becomes a liability. 

I am getting excited about possibilities again, for research, for teaching, for change and adventure and a difference in geography. But it's tempered with the stress of all that comes with job hunting. It's like dating, wondering if someone feels the same way about you that you feel about them and all that. 

I begin to wonder about signs, whispers from the universe. Do they exist or do they exist only because we're looking for them? How do we interpret them? Is it all just one big risk, a leap of faith you take with the hope it will work out? 

And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything you risk even more. ~ Erica Jong