A Visual Representation of My Fear of Commitment

This is the kind of post that a better writer would start, put away, and come back to when there’s an ending. But I’m not that kind of writer, and I want to share with you this unfinished, half-unearthed stuff that’s happening in my head right now. Because that’s the kind of friend I am.

As some of you may have picked up from various things I’ve written here and around the web, I’ve been floundering a bit in the career department for a while. Like, two years or more a while.

It’s not that I’m not happy with what I do or that we haven’t been just fine financially. It’s not about paying the bills or being stuck in a job I don’t like. I write for a living, every day, and I get to do it from anywhere in the world. That is amazing.

But I’ve been paddling around in a duckpond.

It’s pretty here, but it’s not quite right. It’s not authentic, or something, because I know it’s a duck pond and I’m supposed to be in a river or stream or ocean somewhere. But it’s fine, and so it’s easy to stay when the choices get overwhelming.

The choices are always overwhelming.

Choosing one thing, to me, always means not choosing another. It means missing out, and I am terrified of missing out. I’m the girl who stays up late with everyone else so she doesn’t miss a joke – but actually ends up falling asleep in the middle of the party.

I told my productivity coach (yes, I’ve hired one) that I feel like I’m in a dark, round room and there are doors all around me, but I don’t know which one I’m supposed to pick. I’m afraid of going through one and missing out on what’s beyond another. I’m afraid to open a door, start down one path, and find myself totally lost, penniless and longing to be back in that room with those old choices.

I’ve tried to get other people to tell me what to choose. I’ve taken quizzes and hired coaches. I’ve sought out mentors and hounded friends for advice. I’ve gone to conferences and taken courses. But at the end of the week, I’m never able to choose one door, turn the knob, and walk through, turning my back on all of the other closed doors.

Instead, I keep paddling around in circles.

It might surprise you to read that I’ve played it safe. I did, after all, recently sell all of my stuff and live in an RV with my family for a year. And then I moved to a brand new city just because we loved it.

But neither of those was picking a door so much as tunneling through to a new round room.

It was easier to make big, dramatic moves than to choose one path down which to steadily plod.

I am really, really good at this not choosing thing.

After three meetings with my productivity coach, during each of which I’d offered her a different goal towards which we should be working, she finally called me out on my shit.

“Draw a circle,” she said.

“Now write those things that each of those doors represent for you outside of the circle.”

“Put yourself in the circle.”

Then she said something about lightly erasing the words outside of the circle. I’m not exactly sure why (something about nothing being certain), but I did that, too.

Then she said something about being able to go back and forth and no certain paths and blah blah blah – I’m not exactly clear on these parts, but I do remember this:

“By refusing to choose anything, you’re never going to get outside that circle.”

And also:

“You’re scared.”

And I realized she was right. I also realized that there aren’t a bunch of doors leading down separate paths to alternate futures. There’s only in the circle… or out of it.

“So, I don’t actually have to pick! I can do a little of this and a little of -”

“No,” she said. “You have to pick. You have to find a way to make a choice about what comes next, or you’ll never get out of the circle.”

Damn it.

So, now I’m reading Jonathon Field’s Uncertainty and I’m working on a list of “things in my life that are certain.” I’m not sure how that’s going to help me escape the circle, but you have to trust a woman who can spot – and call you on – your commitment issues.

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  1. Megan says:

    All these things can actually fit together – but you’d have to choose either travel writer or self-help. The self-help lends itself better to those other things (down the road), but you could do it with travel writing too.

    I’m on the horns of this dilemma too. I’m trying to quiet my mind and decide what I would do all day if I didn’t have to worry about getting paid for it.
    Megan’s most recent post: Fifty-Two, Week 16: La Famiglia

  2. Kent says:

    What a great – and frustrating! – exploration to undertake. We do a lot of work with this kinda stuff – excited to talk to you about it face-to-face one day (soon?).
    Kent’s most recent post: Pura Vida Costa Rica

  3. daniel says:

    1 – I’m numbering these things because I have points to make or something.

    2 – “Because that’s the kind of friend I am.” And that’s the kind of friend we want you to be.

    3 – “I’m supposed to be in a river or stream or ocean somewhere.” Are you sure your duck pond isn’t actually part of a larger body of water already?

    4 – With regards to opening doors and choices: This isn’t something a life coach can help you with. They can give you the advice, along with a therapist or good friends, that essentially you need to be able to live with the choices you make, both large and small. This is the heart of your post, and I could go on at length, but the comment section isn’t really the place to do it. I might be coming off unduly harsh here, but I truly do not mean to be.

    5 – Your coach is right, and I would say something like this if it wasn’t in your post. By not choosing a door, or a path, or whatever, you ARE making a choice.
    daniel’s most recent post: The First

  4. Carly says:

    Holy hell do I know where you are coming from! I have this same sort of commitment problem with, like, EVERYTHING. From which pants should I wear today to should we move to Florida. Good grief, it’s exhausting, isn’t it?! Coming from someone who did go down at least 4 dedicated paths, I can hopefully comfort you by telling you that just because you pick one, doesn’t mean you can’t try something different later. Of course, you’ll be 2-5 years older each time or something like that. I got a psych degree, then tried flight attendant as a career, then got an engineering degree, worked in construction, worked as an actual engineer, then decided to stay home to raise my kids. I only regret the psych degree. And I STILL don’t know what I want my “life’s work” to be. GAH! Currently I’m thinking I should have gotten a degree in Fine Arts. All I can do at this point is laugh at myself and try not to cry too much. Please tell me if you have any epiphanies as a result of this book!

  5. Dee says:

    I truly thought it was just me. The more options there are, the worse my indecision. For me it’s always what if I don’t pick the BEST one.

    The advance of Internet booking tools for holidays has honestly made my life hell! But it’s just representative of the rest of my life – I want everything to be the best, so I sit frozen in fear in case I’m wrong…

  6. Carly says:

    I tried to name my blog Analysis Paralysis, btw. Kinda glad that didn’t work out, haha.

  7. Darla says:

    I am at the same exact crossroads. I have something right now that I have to pick or I am going to stay stuck. I can’t do a little of this and little of that. I am at the point where I NEED.TO.PICK.


    Thanks for the confirmation. A word in due season indeed.

  8. Oh, I am so there…. in all aspects of my life. And I thought it was a midlife crises, no, it’s about making choices….
    Michelle Robertson’s most recent post: I Call You Mom (on the occasion of my mom-in-law’s 70th)

  9. Robin says:

    Yes, Britt….you will eventually have to pick. But the actual “picking,” so to speak, is just as important as the path that is actually picked.

    I can’t wait to see you in two weeks!! :)
    Robin’s most recent post: Alive.

  10. I know this is a very frustrating place to be, I’m their myself. But I’m not sure I agree with you coach. You might not have to choice, narrow yes. Stay with what pays the bills or the majority of them, then try one of the other things. Most people that write books have day jobs for example. As I said I’m in a similar circle. I’m keeping what pays the bills and any free time I have goes to the other projects. The amount of time I invest in the other project is dictated by the passion I feel towards it.
    Corey Feldman’s most recent post: My brief brush with fame and recognition

  11. Kathy says:

    Circles expand, boxes don’t. You’ve got a bankable, creative skill set that offers you choices (which means that your life will never be dull) and your kids are at those ages where they will (rightly so) claim a lot of your focus. And, you’re a risk taker. In another 2-5 years, when you look back at where you are now, you’ll recognize that this uncertainty you feel was necessary to widen your circle. (If you were boxed in, instead of ‘circled in,’ you might really be stuck!)
    Kathy’s most recent post: Dogs And Why We Love Them

  12. Andrea says:

    Hi Britt, this is my first comment on your blog. I’m a friend of your mom’s…or more accurately, our moms are friends and so I call your mom my friend, too. :) I just love your blog and your honesty and you are an amazing writer. This post is especially great because I too am going through this same junk and we are definitely cut from the same cloth on these. I up and moved halfway across the country when I was 23 but have had the hardest time with job decisions. I hope you will keep posting more about your journey! Andrea

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