There has never been a time when I was especially bold that it did not work out in my favor. I do not think I can empirically prove that statement (I have not, after all, marked every one of these moments down in a calendar that I can then point to and say see! look!) but the fact that it at least feels true is enough. The times I was my most outlandish, the times I made myself the most seen, the times I was my most vulnerable have never been a part of my most mortifying moments. No, those moments, the ones that stick with me and surface every once in a while when it’s 2 AM and I can’t sleep and suddenly make me want to rinse my memory out with strong bleach, those all occurred as a direct result of moments of timidness, Bold’s ugly little sister. Timidness is that innate self-preservationist force that compels you to shrink yourself, to silence your thoughts and opinions, and it is all to avoid the very mortification it always seems to bring.
Once at my first summer job I was working on a complicated database task and my boss had to go to a meeting. She told me that if I had any questions I could go upstairs and quickly ask her because she would be stuck in the conference room all afternoon. Lo and behold, eventually I hit a wall that was utterly unsolvable without her override, so I had no option but to go up and interrupt the meeting or risk wasting time not doing what she had asked. I crept up the stairs and into the meeting and proceeded to lurk while the CEO, CFO, their database consultant, and my boss talked and talked and talked, my anxious brain telling me to wait for a lull in the discussion to quickly blurt out my question. A convenient lull never came and I began to sweat as the length of time that I was just standing there like an interloping, eavesdropping dunce dragged on and on until I started to feel like I couldn’t just interrupt them now after all of this time. I eventually retreated in haste, resolving to find some other task to work on.
It has been two and a half years and I still shudder when I think of that utter train wreck I managed to make out of a non-issue. I stand there in flashbacks shouting “Just talk!!!!!!” at my past stricken self. I was 18 and green and deference to experienced middle-aged superiors had been drilled into me but come on, man, just talk. Be bold. You have important things to do, too. Act like it.
This is the type of memory timidness creates – humiliation, frustration, and regret.
But boldness? Boldness has brought me some of my best friends; dates, and kisses, and butterflies; opportunities and adventure; a job, a raise. And even on the occasions when it hasn’t worked out spectacularly, no harm has ever been done. There are no ghosts that haunt me from boldness past.
This realization came to a head at our final session of P.A.C.E. (the Program for Advancement of Career Exploration) where we discussed decision making, values, and roadblocks. It went without saying (though it was often said) that everyone in that conference room was cripplingly indecisive. We are the people who approach two diverging roads in a yellow wood and stand at the fork long enough that we begin to see new roads through the trees, until suddenly a simple decision of left or right is now a decision of left-left or left-right or right-left or right-right or should I turn around or should I climb that tree or should I just sit here and continue to worry about not picking a direction.
We talked about how decisions can be extrinsically or intrinsically informed. Extrinsically informed decisions are the ones that are influenced by social pressures (the dictates of your parents or teachers or partners) but also the decisions that you make based off of perceived life needs. The decisions made based off of perceived life needs feel like our own, but this independence is illusory. Perceived life needs are internalized social pressures dressed up like ambition.
Intrinsically motivated decisions are those that are made based off of one’s personal values. Two roads diverge before you, and you choose your path based not off of what you plan on getting out of taking that route, because life never works out the way you expect it to anyway, but by which road most upholds your core values.
Waffling is a direct result of not explicitly knowing what those core values are, or of failing to make the cognitive leap from values to tangible decision making, often as a result of those social pressure roadblocks.
And so began a new dialogue with myself. No longer will I make decisions with the weight of the future hanging heavy over me, as though that weight holds water. Who can know what the future holds? If I make this decision that makes me unhappy in the hopes that it will fill some perceived life need, who knows if it will actually pay off, and if it does, who knows if it will be worth it in the end? So I need to discern not what I want my future to be like, but what my values are. If I can answer that question, I can answer all questions.
Sam and I began bouncing words off of each other – adventure, love, companionship, reliability, commitment, warmth. These are our buzzwords. These are the things to which we aspire, beneath which we should be able to identify our core values.
I kept circling back to boldness because it has never let me down, but is that a value? If I drill down on it, I think it encompasses at its root emotional honesty, emotional vulnerability, perseverance, and confidence, and those sound like pretty good values to me.