More on Going for It

One of my friends here in China tells me I’m indecisive. I like to think that I’m simply just really good at clearly seeing both the positives and negatives of each potential choice in any given decision, and therefore I weigh my options carefully before I take any irrevocable action.

But that’s a bunch of crap. I really am just pretty indecisive.

Most of the big decisions I’ve made in my life have been on a whim, or a coin toss, or on the advice of someone else—basically I let them decide for me. But the decision to put my career in science at least temporarily on hold to go to Australia to finish my novel was one I made all on my own.

At first I was going to let Fate decide. I applied for a postdoc which I was reasonably qualified for in Melbourne, and I figured if I got it I’d take it, and if not I’d go to Australia anyway on a “Work and Travel” visa, which lets me stay in Australia for a year, but forbids me to work any one job for more than six months.

But then I got to thinking about what a friend of mine in the Peace Corps told me: “If you want to pursue your dream, you can’t have a plan B; otherwise it will become your plan A.”

I don’t know if that’s true in all cases, but it was certainly true for me once before. When I left Africa in 2004 I wanted to be a writer, but I decided that getting a PhD in chemistry would be my plan B. Well, six years later I have a PhD, but I still haven’t finished my novel. I think that pretty much says it all.

So I made a decision. I decided that I was going to stop putting in a half-assed effort, and finally commit my whole ass to something. I decided to intentionally and willfully give up on the postdoc, and just focus completely on writing. That decision made, I went ahead and applied for the “Work and Travel” visa.

My mommy helped me pay for it.

The thing is, once I made that decision, everything in my life seemed to snap into place. I was granted the visa in less than a week, and didn’t even have to show them any supporting documentation. My friend mentioned the book she was writing, and I agreed to edit it—and in doing so, my own writing and even my perception of writing has improved. I feel energized and inspired; I feel like I have some direction in my life, and I’m finally doing what I’m really supposed to be doing. I am, unfortunately, a rather tense, anxious person, but lately I’ve been feeling a lot more relaxed and happy. And while I can’t say for sure, I like to think that I’m feeling better now because I finally made a decision to do what’s best for me to do.

Yeah, I finally made a decision for myself. Go me. Seriously, my mom picked my college for me, a friend suggested I go to Hawaii, I let the Peace Corps choose Tanzania, I went to England for a girl, I came to China to get as far away from—nevermind. The point is, I’ve always let Fate or other people make my choices for me because I’m indecisive, but this time I’m actually making a decision for myself. And it feels pretty good.

Oh yeah, and I got an email last week saying I was turned down for the postdoc anyway, so I guess that settles it.

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About Critical Awesomeness
I'm a 32-year-old American with a PhD in chemistry and a green hat. Only one of these two things is really important.

2 Responses to More on Going for It

  1. John McAllister says:

    Hey man, way to go about going after this whole writing thing, and recognizing that you’re wanting this to be a priority with the way you’re living your life. I’ve read some of your recent posts as you’ve come to this realization, and I have a some feedback for you:

    You’re selling yourself short.

    I mean really, you have a PhD in Chemistry, Two years teaching secondary school in the Peace Corps, and have lived in Hawaii, Montana, Tanzania, England, China, Australia, and counting. I understand when you say that some of these things you’ve done weren’t choices made with clear intention and purpose, but you still DID THEM. That takes some major guts and dedication.

    Couple your guts and dedication with clear intention and purpose? Holy shit. Watch out world. I’d sure buy your book, whatever it’s about.

    I’m happy for you, and rooting all the way.

    btw, I’m starting my own PhD program at the University of MN in three weeks. I’m very stoked about it.

    Later,
    John

    • Thanks John!

      I appreciate your feedback, and I have to admit that I wasn’t being completely serious here. I really am pretty pleased with the things I’ve done, and the way my life has turned out so far.

      Regardless, I’m pretty sure you’ll like my book–you’re in it.

      Good luck with the PhD! (You’ll need it.)

      Andy

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