Decisions, decisions

a little Wednesday wisdom

Last week I was asked to speak to the MS Academy High Schoolers during their Tuesday morning devotional. Speak? To high schoolers? I sat up a little straighter, feeling all flattered and very special. (Let it be known that my being asked to do this had more to do with the teachers wanting to bring in some new faces to keep things lively, not because anyone thinks I have a raw talent for speech-giving. But still.)

Then my teacher-friend Sarah told me the topic I would need to address: “what to do when you’re at a crossroad in life and faced with a tough decision.”

Uh.

I thought back to July. It was two days before one of my best friends was going to walk down the aisle; I was in the wedding party. There I was, standing in a dressing room surrounded by six colorful dresses strewn about. Picking a dress required four phone calls to mom, at least eight of those self-taken-photos-in-mirror to text to my friend Caroline, and the opinions of two salesladies. Finally my friend Lauren, who was in the area, came to the store, walked into my dressing room, took one look and said: “The canary yellow one. Let’s go.” 

So no, I wouldn’t say I’m an authority on the art of Decision Making. Researching options, calling 10 people, and taking forever to make up my mind – that’s more my style. This quality expressed itself early in life, like when I was a kid at the country club pool we frequented. I could be found frozen on top of the ‘high-dive’ diving board, struggling to choose if I should go with a cannonball or somersault while my frustrated peers waiting in line threatened to come up and push me off. Then I’d jump, probably only to change my mind mid-free fall and do an accidental belly flop.

But none of these seemed like useful anecdotes for a bunch of high schoolers living on a ship in Africa with no diving boards or dressing rooms or friends getting married. 

Laur and me, sometime in the 90s. She’s the cute cat on the left in her mother’s pearls. I know better than to challenge her fashion sense.

I tried to think of a few “big” decisions that I’ve made, but each one turned into a long story. Keep in mind that it is 8 a.m. on a Tuesday, I have 8-10 minutes, and keeping the international teenaged audience awake is of grand importance. And do any of them care why I majored in Journalism instead of English? No. 

So I did what any diplomatic writer would do: dodged the question.

Shared below is the speech spiel I gave. It turned into an ‘Open Letter’ of sorts, addressed to anyone who is facing a decision. Even though none of you are high schoolers (except my brother Robert, Rob are you reading this?) it is never too late to take this advice. And most importantly, a confession: because it is already typed, it saves me from having to come up with content for a real blog post.

Ok, here you go: 

When You’re at a Crossroads – Write it Down
An Open Letter to the MS Academy High School Students
September 25, 2012

Dear Students,

Between now and when you’re 24, you are going to be faced with many of life’s decisions that will set your course, you are going to develop into the person you are going to be.

This means that between now and when you’re 24, you are going to have a few moments of feeling like the world is on your shoulders and your entire future is up in the air. In these moments it is acceptable to pray, or pout, or cry or call your mom. But no matter what, take a deep breath and write it down.

Yes, I happen to be a writer, but I promise that is not why I am telling you to do this. I encourage you to take note of your decision-making processes because someday down the road, when you are beyond the big hard decision, it is an incredible thing to look back and have the innermost thoughts of your younger self. If you don’t write it down, maybe you will remember the decision and circumstances, but what you won’t remember is what it felt like in that moment. You will look back on your memories with the worldview and outlook of a more mature and older version of yourself.

Write it all down and you’ll never have to ask “what was I thinking?” because there it will be, scribbled on a napkin or jotted in shorthand on the back of an envelope. Writing down what you are faced with in a decision can take the form of a journal entry, a list of pros and cons, or as is most often in my case, an email to a dear friend. Maybe you keep a prayer journal, don’t just write down a list of names, but also the reasons why they are on your heart. It is fresh on your mind now, but soon there will be a new list of names of friends in your daily life.

I don’t have the recipe for making the best decisions or picking the path you should take. But what I am sure of is that the next few years are going to speed up and go by quickly for you. Yes, the days of studying or applying for colleges or jobs will be long, but the years will be short. Write down the factors of your big, and even little, decisions.  

If you take my advice, many years from now you might sit with the paper trail of your choices and take a trip down memory lane. In those pages you’ll find the story of you, of what you faced and felt. There will be some things you regret, many decisions you are proud of and worst of all, tangible evidence of mistakes that prove your parents were right. Don’t beat yourself up too much over it though, let your mistakes be reminders that you can do better.

I can promise you that when reading over the choices you’ve made, you will find God’s hand between every line. At crossroads we sometimes feel alone, but in retrospect, when I read what I’ve written about trials I have faced, I see God never once left my side. I can trace his presence like a trail of breadcrumbs. I figure now, the least I can do is keep track of all the influence He has had in my life. Already when I look back at the series of choices that brought me to quit my job and move to a ship in West Africa, I’m confident that this is intentional, I’m not here because I made a wrong turn.

As for what happens after your 24th year, I’m not sure. But at any age, I will always be the product of my choices, just as you will be the product of yours…so all I am here to tell you is that what they say is true, when it comes to the decisions you will make “hindsight is 20:20,” but it’s even sharper – if you’ve written it down.  

James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Hope your day is full of fabulous decisions and free of belly flops. And when in doubt: canary yellow.

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8 responses

  1. OMG. That is so dear and beautifully written. Don’t forget you’re going to have to ask for shore leave to be at Hayden’s wedding…start working on that!

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  2. Loved this post Catherine! You’re doing great! By the way, your dad loved the Birthday surprise! I wish you could have seen the smile on his face!

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  3. I look forward to your blogs. And am sending them today with a woman I really enjoy, with whom I work, and who is from Africa, Christiana Bekie. She is going to enjoy them too. The pictures from your day in the marketthe fabrics are fabulous and for sure the faces would launch a ship.

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  4. Hi Carla,

    Thanks for the e-mail. I would love to see the pictures, but there are no attachments.

    * Hey young lady, enjoy your time in Africa!

    Regards,

    Christiana

    Christiana Bekie, MS|Assistant Director of Planning & Compliance

    4281 Dacoma St. | Houston, TX 77092

    Tel: 713-812-0033 x (124) | Fax: 713-812-9829

    Visit AVANCE-Houston, Inc. on the web:

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