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Making hard decisions in college

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I’ve been very stressed lately and in need of alone time, so I’ve watched some TED Talks. I’ve only watched two so far but one that I recently watched, “How to make hard choices” by Ruth Chang, really stuck with me. The biggest takeaway from her talk is that when making a hard choice, one alternative might not be better than the other, because what you might consider to be “the best option” may not always be available to you. When the alternatives you’re left with are “on par,” the obvious pros and cons, or the reasons that usually guide easier decisions, are no longer there. You now have to create your own reasons.

I have had to make some hard decisions lately. This talk, a talk that I wish I had seen before I made my decision, would have been immensely helpful in that situation. TED even has a playlist of talks to watch when you have a big decision to make. But what Chang is talking about is making a reason for yourself, and that is what I did.

You may be the president of a club or the top performer in your chosen field or the best singer in the choir, but that does not mean that you have to stick with that chosen activity. Just because you are good at something or because it is where you think you should be doesn’t mean that you have to decide to stay.

Sometimes we have to decide what is best for ourselves outside of any reason, because reason might not be there. There is no perfect pro and con list for decision making. There’s no perfect solution and no perfect formula. That is something that I struggle with as a perfectionist: there is no perfect way or perfect choice.

Chang argues that the easiness of some choices shouldn’t make you go with that choice. I am a very stubborn person and I don’t give up easily. I don’t like quitting, and I hate taking what I see as the easy way out, but a hard decision can muddle all of these feelings together. You are caught between doing what you know deep down is best for you, and the discomfort of what you stand to gain or lose if you stay in your current situation.

When the time comes to make a decision, you should always take those around you into account. But, if you feel that you need to make this decision, then make it! No one can make it for you, and it is not easy. It may take longer than a day or week or even a month. It isn’t always going to be a clean-cut decision and it may leave a mess.

I was talking to a great friend of mine the other day about a hard decision that I made last week. She told me, “College is the only time in your life that you get to choose how you spend your time.” As I reflect on the hard decisions that I have made this semester, this resonates with me more and more. You have the power to choose how you spend your time and your resources. You have the power to walk away from things that don’t make you happy.

Especially now, in college, when you aren’t in the ‘real world’ yet, you should be doing things based on the right reasons for you. Do not do things just because it is expected of you or because it will help you build your resumé. This is the one time that you have ultimate control over your hard decisions. Yes, these decisions are tough and messy. They can be so hard that you just want to stay put where you are and push through. But, you as an individual have the power to create yourself, as Chang says. These hard decisions and choices define us and show who we want to be.

It is my hope that my decision reflects who I want to be, not who I am expected to be. I hope that anyone reading this who is struggling with a hard decision remembers that too.

Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at ebeuger@umass.edu.

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