Good christ, do I make bad decisions.
It’s kind of astonishing how many truly bad decisions I have made, and how completely fucking clueless I am at the time I’ve made them that almost any other decision would have been better than the one I do go with.
I’m not a stupid person, so you’d think I’d have a handle on this decision-making thing. And I can be pretty good at helping someone else make decisions that make sense for them; then again, I’m not the one actually making those sensible decisions, so maybe it works out in spite rather than because of me.
And it’s not like these bad decisions lead to crazyfuntimes. Oh, they did, sometimes, when I was younger, when bad decisions were confined to evening or weekend plans and usually involved some sort of intoxicant: hanging on the bumper of Y’s car and skiing down the street in my topsiders; getting stoned in a stranger’s basement then rifling thru the cupboards for hard rolls and peanut butter; bringing approximately 100 times more booze than food on a camping trip to Mauthe Lake; accidentally starting a paper tablecloth on fire at Country Kitchen, and wrapping toilet paper around our heads and dancing thru the restaurant singing “Hare Krisna”.
(This last bit was a group effort—I don’t know that I was actually the one who tipped over the candle; in any case, I’ve been making up how awful we were to those waitresses by overtipping wait staff ever since.)
No, it was only when the stakes got larger did the decisions get both worse and less fun.
I started at Madison with the intention of majoring in political science and becoming a journalist. I declared the major early, and starting working at The Daily Cardinal my first semester. So far, so good.
But then I got to thinking that maybe I wasn’t cut out for journalism (even though I was totally cut out for journalism), and started snuffling around for something else to do.
Hence grad school.
No need to rehash my each and every bad grad decision, but you can be sure they were there and I diminished my prospects with each and every one.
(You want an example? I had a couple of editors sniffing around my dissertation, and one who made serious overtures to me to turn it into a book. Do you need to guess what I did? Nothing, that’s what I did.)
Blew thru two post-docs—two very good post-docs, with great colleagues and great conditions and which could have served as great launching pads for my career—with almost nothing to show for them except a desire to quit academia.
Such fine decisions.
Then the move to the Boston area. Christ. Next.
Then the move to Brooklyn (which involved multiple financially stupid decisions at both ends of the move), more bad job decisions, and, well, here I am.
I’ve known before of the low-quality of my decisions, but always had reasons for their badness: I was depressed, I was really depressed, I was getting over being depressed, I was so used to making bad decisions while depressed that I didn’t know how to make not-bad ones, I could only make decisions based on what I knew at the time. . . . Blah blah.
No, a coupla’ weeks ago I finally owned these shitty decisions, gathered them all into my arms and said Goddamn.
I don’t know what I’m going to do with the full recognition of this bundle of badness; it’s just possible that knowing how terrible I’ve been at making decisions that I’ll try harder to make better ones, that I’ll check myself with a reminder of how badly things have gone before.
Oh, and by checking with people who by simple fact of not being me will offer better counsel to me than I could to myself.
Two more things. One, that I am not stupid has probably helped to mitigate some of the bad effects of the bad decisions. And not every decision I’ve made has been terrible (which may have helped lull me into thinking I was better at this than I am), so while I’m not where I want to be, I’m not at the bottom of the well, either.
Two, I’m not at the bottom of the well. Those bad decisions may have tipped me this way or that, but tipping over isn’t always all bad. Sometimes it’s just not what I expected, and sometimes, the unexpected is all right.
It’s all right.