Wants, needs and the struggle of choice

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“One of the most troublesome things in life is that what you do or do not want has very little to do with what does or does not happen”

We are creatures of habit. We like routines and plans and knowing what’s in store. Let’s face it – most of what we choose to do is chosen merely to try to force a particular, desired outcome later down the line. Those of us who claim to be spontaneous and adventurous aren’t 100 percent honest because even then, we are making a choice to obtain a specific result. The difference is we do so suddenly and very quickly, right? Personally, I’ve always been the type of person to prepare and plan well in advance to avoid any surprises popping up in the future. Realistically, this is an absolute ridiculous mindset because it’s impossible to deter all surprises, but I did my best to mitigate as much as I could. I always had a plan and a pocket calendar to write it all down in pen – never pencil. There’s no room for uncertainty like that in my planner! But my problem was that although I felt prepared for the things I had control over, this didn’t equip me to deal with changes to my plans gracefully. So while 21-year-old Tanya would’ve insisted that I would be out of the country by the summer after graduation and writing for some great foreign company, she was blindsided by what the universe actually threw at her. So while my plan was and still is to get out and live elsewhere, the timing has changed drastically and I was forced to readjust. And that, as some of you may know, is not an easy thing to do.

Hunter S. Thompson said, “On some days, you get what you want and on others, you get what you need.” What tends to be tough to swallow is that what you want may not be what you need… and vice versa. They don’t always go hand in hand, so how do we prioritize between the two? To put it more simply: which matters more? Obviously, this is completely up to your own interpretation, but I think it comes down to specific scenarios. For example, I want out of my hometown, but I need to feel secure enough to move far away. My desire to move is completely reliant on being properly prepared to actually follow through. So in my mind, this means many things: secure finances, sufficient work experience and timing. However, I always struggle with that last condition because that falls outside the realm of my control and sometimes my understanding. How will I know if the timing is right or not? Is the timing a direct result of whether or not I have the other two conditions fulfilled? And when you spend so much time trying to figure this all out in your own head, it tends to end with you throwing your hands up in the air and sighing, “Well, hopefully I’ll just know,” as if we think our intuition will guide us the right way. But our gut’s been wrong before, remember? Oh, great. Now what?!

In my personal example, I chose to go with what I needed more so than what I wanted at that moment in time. It was a painfully hard decision to make that was met with many tears and empty demands to know why (Oh, why!!) I had to make such a choice. I had a limited amount of time to decide, for myself, what mattered most. That’s an immense amount of pressure to deal with without knowing what, exactly, would follow. So did I make the right choice? I have no idea. Ask me in 20 years. For now, I think it’s best to just hunker down and stick to what I chose. Ride it out to the fullest and revel in it. I didn’t throw my fate up in the air to chance, so I have to be content with my decision.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve come to learn that predictions don’t mean much. Too much lies outside the realm of medical knowledge. A lot of what happens next comes down to you and your specific genetics, your attitude. No, there’s nothing we can do to stop the inevitable, but that’s not the point. The point is that you should try to make the most of the time you have left.”

I know that even more changes will spring up down the road and I will have to face them without having prepared for them. That’s the way life goes, right? Sometimes I’ll have to deal with things one-by-one, other times everything will barrel toward me at full speed all at once. I will continue to try to plan for a future the best I can, but I have to allow myself some wiggle room for when the plan has to change. It’s all about attitude and how we act when things don’t go our way. As I said, we can’t control time but we can control how we spend it. So make the tough choices not because you have to, but because you want to keep going and living and growing. And when things don’t exactly go to plan, don’t take it personally. Adjust. “‘It’s not a personal world,’ he told me, ‘no matter how much of it recognizes you on the street.'”

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