Mind, Love, Life Stories, Advice, Wellness

How I finally started taking responsibility for my own choices

It wasn’t about putting my faith in a God who may or may not exist.

I have always found it difficult to deal with change. When I was younger, I hated it when teachers would switch up the seating chart a few weeks into the school year. I didn’t really understand the concept of a raincheck, and I found a lot of comfort in the fact that my family chose the same Chinese restaurant whenever we went out for dinner.

Recently, the changes in my life have become more frequent and more drastic, and a lot of said changes now have that tricky added element of autonomy. But ever since I started to have some say in how things panned out, it dawned on me that I could alter the entire trajectory of my life with a single choice, a single misstep in the right or wrong direction. I developed a damning tendency to get emotionally overwhelmed and find myself trapped in these unhealthy “what if?” loops that only really led to acute anxiety and emotional disconnect.

The first real wave of this hit when I started university. I had moved abroad to study (an opportunity I worked my ass off for) and had been looking forward to for a long time. But all I could think about was whether or not I was doing the right degree or if I should have convinced my father to let me go to one of the other schools I got into. Would I really have been better off if he had agreed? You get the picture. 

In an attempt at finding some semblance of peace amongst the pandemonium, I started going to these Buddhist meditation sessions that were held at the student union on Wednesday afternoons. One day, the organizers had invited a guest speaker to share his experience of an extreme retreat that he took part in that previous summer. For the life of me, I can’t even recall the man’s name. But, I’ll never forget one thing he said. 

After he finished telling the story, he opened the floor for questions. I tentatively raised my hand, and he nodded in my direction. “What was the hardest part?”

He looked at me thoughtfully for a few seconds before answering, “learning to trust the process.”

He paused, and I remember feeling the words hovering in the air.

Learning to trust the process.

He went on to say that despite how difficult it had been to grasp, it was by far the most rewarding part of the whole experience. In a way, it gave him his life back. He stopped agonizing over every waking moment, wondering what he was doing, asking himself why he was doing it or thinking about how it could be different. He was no longer diminishing moments or feelings or choices down to “good” or “bad” ones. Instead, he had made a conscious decision to trust the process.

No one had put it that way before. It wasn’t about putting my faith in a God who may or may not exist. It wasn’t about “going with the flow” or leaving things up to fate. This was about taking responsibility for the choices I made and choosing to trust what came with them. 

It has stuck with me ever since.

It’s safe to say that I’m still learning. The inherent discomfort with life’s inevitable variance has held on tight for the (nearly) 23-year-ride and found a home for itself in some hard-to-get-to place in my adult psyche. But I’m working with it. 

I’m learning that trust is not my strong-suit, and that I’ll probably be working on it for a long, long time. I’m learning to look at changes in pace or plans as serendipitous rather than scary. And most importantly, I’m learning that its okay to let go of the stories I’ve written for myself in my head.