Thursday, October 08, 2009

too many choices

Today, I met with one of my co-workers for lunch and among other things, we discussed what seems to be my very uncertain future. As I was replaying to my co-worker the choices that I currently have before me - and the stress that they are causing - he told me that he once read a book about choices. The premise was that people are happier when they have choices. But in reality, people are usually paralyzed by indecision when too many choices are before them.

For instance, my co-worker recently planned a trip to the Caribbean. To get there, he needed to fly from San Diego to Miami for his connecting flight. And while he was filled with such excitement about planning this exotic vacation, once he went on line and started to book his tickets, he was overcome with dread.

Options upon options were available for flight times; connecting cities; arrivals, departures and ground transportation. There were hotel options. Did he want an efficiency or a suite? Did he want a room facing the lagoon or ocean? Would he like an upgrade or a package deal? And then, once he finally made his choices, he agonized over whether his decisions were good enough.

Here's a little known fact about me: When I go out to a new restaurant, I frequently wait until everyone has ordered because I want to see what they select and why. And maybe what they ordered will be better than what I was thinking of ordering. If I've eaten there before, I will order the same exact thing. Because I am a fierce creature of habit.

Along that same vein, at all costs, I will avoid eating at The Cheesecake Factory because I cannot stand the menu. From what I recall, there is at least one full page dedicated to various salads. Several pages to pasta and the dessert menu is the volume of a telephone book for a small town.

The BEST restaurant I ever ate at, was a small Italian number in the North End of Boston. You just walk in and sit down and they serve you whatever it was that they cooked that day. There were NO choices except whether you wanted to eat there, or not.

Even the most simple things can be complicated by choices. What kind of ice cream would you like? Do you want hot fudge? Whipped cream or marshmallow? Nuts? Peanuts, Walnuts or Pecans? One cherry or two?

Will that be for here or to go?

For as long as we have been a couple, Charlie and I have said that we would like to live closer to family. But seeing as we live in Southern California and we have family in Northern California, Massachusetts and South Carolina - where do we go? Effectively, our choice is any corner of the continental United States. Awesome!!

Add to all that, this year, I am more aware of the passage of time than I ever have been in my entire life. Which means, I feel this invisible pressure to make a choice.

In two months time, I have watched two people that I care about lose their battles to cancer. My babies turn five-years-old in less than a week. Kindergarten is looming on the horizon. Do I send them? Do I keep them home? If I send them, what school will they attend? If we move what school will they attend? Is it as nice as the school just down the street from our house?

I returned to work full time. My husband has been laid off and started his own company. I have been presented with several opportunities to move. To sell our house. To start a new life in a new area - none of which are closer to family. Of course my immediate family is the most important family in my life, but it certainly would be nice to be closer to our extended family.

Currently, the choice is stay in San Diego and continue working and Charlie can establish his company. But the most immediate problem, in my opinion, is that the kids suffer if we are both distracted with work. So while I want to be supportive of my husband in his new endeavor, sometimes when I reach for the words, "I'm proud and support you!" the words that I find are, "What the $%*@ were you thinking? Are you out of your $%*@ing mind starting a COMPANY when we have small children at home?!"

I could quit and Charlie could go full force. But seeing as he doesn't have the revenue stream to support our family - nor any benefits - I believe that would be a bad choice. And if he were to start over with a new company, the income would be less than what I am making now.

We could take the job that was just offered to me and move our family to Los Angeles. But I'd be in an office five days a week. And considering the next home that we buy is hopefully, the home where we will raise our children, I can't rightly say that I'm too pumped about living in LA for the next 20 years. (Sincere apologies to my peeps north on the 5.)

We could sell off everything and move, without jobs, to be closer to family. Or, we could liquidate our 401Ks and travel around the county in an RV while live blogging the whole way. At the moment, we're seriously considering both of these scenarios because we are out of our noggins and on our second glasses of wine.

If I didn't have an amazing education. If I didn't have an amazing career. If I didn't have an amazing husband (who also has an amazing education). If I didn't have amazing children. If I didn't have an amazing family that lives too far away. If I didn't live in an amazing neighborhood with an amazing church and an amazing network of friends. If I didn't have an amazing little house that has lost an even more amazing amount of equity. If I didn't have this incredibly amazing life, the choices that I make - or don't make - would be SO much easier.

In reality, I don't have any problems at all whatsoever.

I'm the luckiest person alive.

I just have absolutely no idea which side is up.


  1. What? Yo... Yo...Yo... move to the LBZ! We have an awesome school system and the K-8 public school that Shayna will be attending is known throughout our neighborhood as the "free" private school! There's only 1 Cheesecake Factory (it's in Huntington Beach, so it's a ways away) and we have 2 Souplantations in the area! 2! The commute up to LA is easy and you could always take the train...
    ps- sorry I missed your call the other night. We'll be home tomorrow night if you want to chat...

  2. I've been in this situation a few times too. I found that each time the best choice I COULD have made was when I was relaxed and had a little distance betwen me and the choices - ie on holiday with a glass of wine in my hand.

    In reality, whatever choice you do make will be ok because you'll do whatever you need to make your family happy.

    You have only one life. There is no point in spending years curled up in agony because you are not iving the life you want. Far better to make a change and embrace whatever comes with it.

    I changed career at your point in life. I am a little younger than you but my children are a little older overall - 4,7 and 9. I retrained as a Montessori teacher when the youngest was 2. I chose that course for 2 reasons - 1. I loved the philosophy and wanted it for my family and for a career 2. School holidays! I love my life now. I am paid peanuts but we are making it work and everyone is happy.

    The best choice is not always the obvious one. (Oh, and moved to be near my mum!)

  3. God I love reading your blogs...really, I love them. I wish you all the luck in the world, and can't wait to see what life brings you next.

  4. Jen, I think you should just have another glass of wine.


  5. LA - they want to move you to LA? Okay - that's different. I was hoping it was Tennessee or Virginia - I would pass.

    You have a nice home, you can afford to go see family, your grounded and it allows Charlie time to get up and running. I would stay right where you are. More opportunities will come along.

    I had to say no to job offer in the Spring - a great job offer, it just wasn't what I wanted because it was too far of a commute every day - I passed. Man, that was hard to say "no" but once I did it, I felt great and I haven't regretted it one day.

  6. It's so funny you are talking about choices today. I say that to myself and sometimes out loud to whoever is standing next to me that there are too many choices for shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, hairspray, etc. Absolutely everything. Now those are mundane everyday items and it's hard for me to freaking pick one of them. When I'm faced with a decision that I have to make based on several options, it IS overwhelming and you're right you do get paralyzed and avoid making the choice because you don't want to screw up. It's insane. I'd rather have two choices stay or go, up or down, right or left, this or that. So much easier. Maybe three options. I like odd numbers.
    Take care,

  7. This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday -

  8. I'm sure you've done this, but have you made a pro and con list with all your options at the top and left it out for a few days on the counte? We did this when considering a move.

    Whenever something struck us, small or big, we would add it to the appropriate list. It was amazing how many small things came out, and how they started to add up for us. We prayed about it and eventually chose what to the end it was to move and be closer to family, despite job uncertainty.

    Your lists will be packed I'm sure, but you might enjoy seeing it all laid out on one piece of paper.

    Blessings to you...

  9. I have read your blog for awhile and can relate to your recent posts about trying to make decisions relative to your career. I am a flight controller for NASA in Houston and just had my second child in June. I had pre-arranged an extended maternity leave through the end of the year, so I am at least home until then. Now, I am talking to my management about what to do come January. Do I work from home and work only on the next program after space shuttle (which is new and exciting) or do I return to the office and spend time working on the last shuttle flights that the US will launch in late 2010? Both are options that I will never be able to do again - last shuttle flights or time with my children at home while they are still infants. Decisions are tough, especially when if you turn something down now you will never get the chance to do it again later - it is now or never.

  10. I don't mean to state the obvious, but...when deciding if/where you should move, just be sure there is a Trader Joe's close by!

  11. Just curious...

    Could Charlie apply for the job that they're offering you? From what I've gathered, y'all are in the same industry. I don't know what you do specifically, but is that an option?

  12. Moving to LA totally bites. I was hoping for something more EXOTIC. Like a cabin in the woods in Montana. I would have to take a pass.

  13. Whew, you have soooo much energy. I am sure you and Charlie will succeed in whatever choice you make.

    It seems your company truly values you and there will be many opportunities. Take a deep breath, say a little prayer and the answer will come to you.

    Peg O.

  14. Ugh, LA? We are trying to get out of LA and down to San Diego before the kids get much older (currently 5 & 3). Don't do it! Heheh. The schools, unless you go Charter or private are mostly dreadful. The outside influences are formidable.

    Oh, did you know that kindergarten is not required in the state of California? No wonder our school systems are in such a state. But I digress...

    Wine = good.