Rails

I’ve been thinking about decisions.

When I was 4, my parents put a backpack in my hands and sent me to preschool. After I finished preschool, I went to kindergarten. Soon after, I realized I liked writing. Soon after that, I graduated from high school, and then college. After that, I got a job.

The first real decision I made was to go to graduate school. After that, I got another job. And now I’m here.

On a two-lane road, we zoom by each other at 50 miles per hour. One small muscular spasm by either driver would be the equivalent of driving into a stationary vehicle at 100 miles per hour. It would disintegrate both vehicles and the people inside. But we drive without anxiety. It’s as if we don’t even have the choice of jumping the median. It’s not a decision we make. It’s as if we treat our cars and the road like roller coasters on rails.

Every morning, I wake up at 6:13. I shower. I walk Rainbow. I decide which watch I’m going to wear. I’ve been allowed to reserve those small decisions to myself. But virtually everything else is on rails. It let’s me relax a bit. It keeps my blood pressure down. It helps me survive.

In many religions, there is the concept that the fewer decisions we have to make, the more time we have to focus on God. Take priests, for example. They take a vow of poverty. With food, shelter and God, there are few decisions we must make.

This isn’t spiritual stuff; it’s just logic. If you only have one watch, you don’t have to think about which one to put on in the morning. That allows more time to focus on the things you want to focus on.

Recently, I started being very deliberate in my decision-making. This meant I needed to justify every action I took.

More often than not, the justification was: If I do this, I will be better off than I am now. Progress seems important.

If atoms are just bouncing balls, then we can predict where they will go. If we knew where all the bouncing balls were, then we would know where everything is.

That’s not how the world works, though. There is, in the most scientific way, uncertainty built into the universe.

In 19 days, I will leave my job. Some days, I feel like it’s an opportunity to do exactly what I want to do. Other days, the uncertain future causes anxiety. I wonder if I’ll ever go broke.

One of the incredibly things about the last 200 years is the increase in social mobility. We still have work to do, but the path for a working class child to join the social elite isn’t out of the question. But mobility goes two ways.

I consciously decided to write this essay. It is like mental garbage collection. Except all that garbage needs to be picked up and reconstructed into my life. I get to decide how I construct that garbage.

When I reconstruct, I like logic. I like serendipity. I like mobility.

I like watching other people reconstruct their lives throughout the course of an essay. It’s like watching Tetris pieces fit together into a perfect rectangle. Watching people make conscious decisions — going off the rails — is exhilarating. It sounds like something I would like to do.

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