The Trouble with Choosing

Art by Sian Williams

I think that I might be a bit vague sometimes. 


Perhaps my ambivalence is a defence mechanism. If I am not certain of anything that I do or say, then I do not have to take responsibility for anything. I wish.  


Oscar Wilde, in one of my favourite books, wrote, “to define is to limit.” This line was said by Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray, whom I would not recommend viewing as any sort of role model. Dorian Gray does and it corrupts him. Unfortunately, I too seem to carry this philosophy to a fault. 


I like to keep my options open. Instead of committing myself to one thing, I allow room for variation and unforeseeable changes or for another opportunity that I had predicted, and may have wanted to keep as a plan B.


My ambiguity certainly has its drawbacks. Indeed, it has gotten me into a number of very uncomfortable predicaments. By not definitely saying “no,” I am not saying “yes” – but people have either misunderstood, or taken advantage of this propensity for ambiguity. 


Without trying to, my fluctuating decisions frustrated family and friends. It’s difficult to make plans by replying with “maybe,” instead of “yes,” or “I’ll try to get there in the evening,” instead of “I’ll be there at 6.”


Although I try to be punctual to appointments that I commit myself to, it is difficult for me to first commit myself to said appointments. On more than one occasion, I have shown up late to an event, not out of choice or fashion. Rather, until the very last minute before I had to leave, I was still flip-flopping over whether or not I should attend at all. 


This uncertainty does not bring me pleasure. Quite the opposite. Never being able to make a decision for fear of making the wrong decision, in fact, can heighten my anxieties about almost anything. Going outside or meeting new people or eating a certain food or submitting an assignment or something else entirely. These worries make me more uncertain, which makes me worry even more. It’s a positive feedback loop, which is not as nice as it sounds. 


I usually do not even realise that I am being indeterminate until someone points it to me or parodies my way of speaking. Once, I was making plans with a friend, deciding where to go and what to do. I cannot remember at all what I had said, but his response has reverberated around in my head ever since; “Oh my god, so vague.” He did not mean to be mean, at least that was not the impression I got. He was merely voicing his reasonable frustration about me not being able to stick to any sort of decision.


I do want to improve, though. If I don’t make my own decisions, I fear that I will end up merely drifting along, with no clear purpose or reason. Or worse, someone else may try to make these decisions for me. While that would take away a degree of the responsibility that I so fervently try to avoid, I do want to live my own life.


This year, I will try to be more certain. No, I will be more certain. Maybe.



Originally published in Woroni Vol. 72 Issue 2 ‘To Be Confirmed’

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