Floundering in a Sea of Choices


The familiar daze and energy depletion frequently brought on by exposure to mass consumerism took a hold of me within moments of entering the colossal, brightly lit big-box store. Rows and rows of shelves were lined with countless mass produced products, and busy patrons wandered by with carts and baskets full of the stock. I stood in awe as everything from potato chips and candy to televisions and furniture clamored for my attention.

My friend, on a mission, bee-lined for one of the aisles as I trailed after him in an overstimulated stupor. He willfully perused shelves of shoes as I watched in a silent trance. Enervated by the plethora of stimuli around me, I took a seat on a bench the next aisle over to provide myself a brief respite.

I often feel overstimulated and fatigued when I enter a bustling shopping center without any particular purpose. When I have a specific item in mind, I am able to circumvent this phenomenon by making it my duty to retrieve what I need as quickly as possible. However, if I enter a store just for the sake of browsing, the limitless options tend to feel smothering. Even with conscious anticipation it’s a feeling that I haven’t been able to shake.

On this particular day, as I sat on the bench in the supermarket waiting for my friend to pick out a new pair of shoes, I wondered why I felt so sapped from simply walking into a large store with plentiful options of products to choose from. As I pondered the enigma, a revelation sprung forth. I was startled to find that the overwhelming fatigue elicited by aimless shopping ran parallel to the way I presently felt about my life’s directionless path.

I graduated from college a few years ago thinking I was going to do big things. I had a plan, and was determined to take on the world.

Unfortunately, being the young, naive 20-something that I am, I had yet to be slapped in the face by the cruel hand of reality. The plan quickly fell apart, and the life I had envisioned for myself crumbled before my eyes. I took many wrong turns, and have only recently found myself in a good place. I’m nowhere near where I thought I would be in life, and have had to greatly reevaluate how I define success.

But that’s okay. I may be lost, but I’m doing well- which can be simultaneously scary and exciting.

Much like the vast variety of options available at a store, I am flabbergasted by the endless choices life has forced me to face.

Should I buy cinnamon rolls or cereal for breakfast?

(Do I want to follow my dream or pursue something more practical?)

What brand should I choose?

(Where should I start?)

Am I buying enough?

(Do I need to continue my education or focus on gaining more experience?)

Does my selection have value?

(Am I making the right decision?)

And, most importantly, is this really what I want?

(Am I going to be happy with my choice?)

As soon as I make one decision, I am dumbfounded to find that several more options arise. It is a side effect of the new phase of life that I still find myself grappling with. For most of my life I have always been on a predetermined, safe, cookie-cutter path. Go to elementary school. Move on to high school. Graduate from college. After that, what’s left? Find a job. Make a mark on the world. But how? Just like the aimless shopper, I have no direction.

When forced to make a decision, I am much more at ease when I know what I want. The key is to allow myself room to explore my options without putting too much pressure on myself. For the first time in my life, I have the freedom of discovery. No one is telling me what to do, and even though it’s scary, I relish the new responsibility. I may continue to find myself stumbling along in the same lost stupor I have become accustomed to, but I hope that I will find the courage to take risks. Through experience, and trial and error, I trust that I will learn to know what’s right for me.


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