The Paradox of Choice

Written by  September 27, 2019

Faced with too many options, I've decided to run towards myself instead. 

We live in a world where opportunities are endless. Whether this infinite range feels like a challenge to fulfil one’s wildest dreams or the beginning of a fall into a bottomless pit is highly subjective.

It can also vary from hour-to-hour. I, for one, have woken up to be greeted by the mellow chirping of birds and the sun streaming into my room at just the right angle to make me feel like a goddess. I have stepped out of the bed with a smile and said to myself “what a beautiful day to be alive.” And I have meant it.

Then a few hours go by, the routine goes on and bile begins to rise in my throat. “Jesus, this is it. This is my life. I am not doing anything with it!” Terror calls, stress rises and panic ensues. An internal debate of my own worth takes control and I spiral into what one may call the “millennial syndrome.” Or the human syndrome? After all, this tugging feeling of worthlessness, with its almost magnetic pull, couldn't have been introduced solely to the generation I belong to.

My generation is perhaps the first to be given such a wide range of options to choose from.

Screw being an astronaut, teacher, doctor, lawyer, mechanical engineer. I could now do a major in gender studies and become a professor at some university rambling on about feminism. I could choose not to go to college at all and start my own company making organic lip balms. I could travel the world with a drone and GoPro and earn money posting stories on Instagram. I could be so many things. Yet while the freedom to choose should feel like a liberty, it more often feels like an obligation to be something unique.

Maybe the grass is always greener on the other side. Would I have been happier had my mother gave me the option of choosing between being a doctor, lawyer or engineer? Perhaps not. Perhaps this scenario is better. Maybe it isn’t. Who knows? I know I don’t.

After four years in a liberal arts interdisciplinary college, there is only one thing I knew for a fact: I was confused. 

The years in the typical education system allowed me to learn (and then to unlearn) so many things that I became paralyzed by my own brain. Everything I did felt like I wasn’t aiming high enough, or sometimes so high that I wasn’t ever going to achieve that much. This crippling feeling led me to make a decision at the age of 21. I decided I needed a break from the system. Just go away to a beautiful place for a while, meditate, write, journal and allow myself to flow freely while having minimal responsibilities. I didn’t want to get into a run-of-the-mill job because everyone else around me was, or go for a master's because well, I was so damn undecided.

So I decided to think outside the box. Travelling had been, and perhaps always will be, very close to my heart. People sometimes pin me to be an escapist when they hear that I’d like nothing more than to leave, and then arrive, and to leave, and to arrive again, over and over and over. They think I’m running away from my problems. I think I’m running towards myself. Finding the most authentic version of me by exposing myself to as many different places, cultures, people, climate, situations and opportunities. Diamonds shine when they’re exposed to pressure.

I decided to go to Spain to train in teaching English.

TEFL had been on mind for some time now. The difficulty of getting a job as an Indian (and thus not a "native speaker") did not particularly bother me. Perhaps because it never arose to begin with. Sometimes the lack of manifestation of the sapling has more to do with the not planting of the seed in the first place. Why then bother blaming the weather?

I'm exposing myself to as many different places, cultures and opportunities. Diamonds shine when they’re exposed to pressure.

I knew my English was crazy good. I could speak with more authority and write with more depth than many native speakers I knew. While my score in the spatial and mathematical section may require some work, my linguistic abilities were far from novice. So I applied to whatever I could find online.

I enrolled myself in a one-year language training course in Spain. A student visa allows you to work for 20 hours per week. Once I got through the language course, I applied to various language schools and academies across Spain. Managed to bag a few Skype interviews, and finally landed myself a job in a small town in the north of Spain.

The process began in June, with me sitting at my uncle’s house near Nainital. I got a job offer by July and applied for my visa in August. I left for Spain at the beginning of September. I will be staying in Europe for 10 months, and will be funding myself completely on my own at the age of 22. I will be paying my mother back the course fees, though she never asked for the money back.

I have managed to find myself the perfect plan for the next one year. During this time, I will be working for four hours, five days a week and will be spending the rest of my time writing, reading and meditating. The two things I am looking forward to are my Espanol classes on the weekdays and my surfing lessons on the weekends. Once I get done with the teaching course and training, I’ll be spending a few days in Morocco and Tunisia, before heading back to India just in time for my 23 birthday. And then, I will work for a few years and at the age of 27, apply for my MBA.

If feels like I have it all figured. But I promise you, just the fact that I am writing all this down means I don’t. This is all just a way of reassuring myself that I’ve got this; that I’ve got life.

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Shrita Pathak

Shrita (or Shay; whatever floats your boat) is a 22-year-old from New Delhi, India who is currently teaching English in Spain. She graduated with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts, with a major in political science, and a double minor in econ and film studies. She enjoys reading, writing, cooking, meditating and doing anything that gets her heart rate up.

Website: https://www.instagram.com/itstheshayway/

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