The signs are all there: my friends are starting to get married, I eat kale and my five year college reunion is coming up. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am sort-of-kind-of actually an adult. Sort of.
While this prospect terrifies me (you mean I’ll have to pay for those student loans?), I’ve decided that if I’m going to have to be an adult, then I want to be this baller, Diane Keaton-like adult. The kind of adult who knows how to “cook” and always looks put together, and who other people spot and whisper, “Wow! She is living right.”
BUT HOW? How, I ask you? How can I learn to cook when my kitchen is technically a part of my bedroom? How can I look put-together when I still haven’t mastered the bump-less ponytail? And as far as convincing other people that I am doing something right… well, my 14-year-old cousin once said I’m “okay cool”. So, I’ve got that going for me.
In an effort to figure out how to be an adult, I’m embarking on an experiment to test out the life advice of those who seem to have all of the answers. Those select few that make living look like an effortless art. I’ll comb Beyoncé lyrics for council; I’ll try on advice from Nora Ephron; I’ll listen to direct orders from my doctor. I’ll try out different life hacks and advice and report back to you, dear reader. And just like Louis Pasteur before us, we’ll figure out what advice works and what advice should be recalled. Together we can cobble together some way of being a human. And P.S. don’t you think being a human is really friggin’ weird?
The Advice: Make Your Decisions in 60 Seconds or Less
Adviser: My Therapist
From the tiny little “What will you be having, Miss?” to the bigger “What city should I live in?”, I am paralyzed by FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). When presented with a dinner menu, I ask the waitress not only for her favorite item but also for the historic favorite dish of the restaurant. If I don’t order the right thing it feels like that would say something larger about my character. “Here lies Tara who ordered the one sub-par item on the menu while everyone else enjoyed their fabulous meal and their fabulous lives and smiled and had a great time,” my tombstone might read.
In an attempt to help me overcome this chronic indecisiveness, my therapist suggested I try making snap decisions. For two weeks, when confronted with life’s small options, I would have only sixty seconds to chart my course. No waffling allowed. I would have to exercise my decision-making and stick to my choices.
Test 1: Dinner at a Restaurant
I began my experiment at dinner with my friend George and his boyfriend (you would love George, BTW). Usually, settling on a restaurant could take me an entire day of cross-comparing Yelp reviews with Zagat — but with only sixty seconds on the clock, I leapt at the first restaurant that came to mind. I felt an immediate pang of relief that I was no longer burdened with choosing a place. I could move on with my life. At the restaurant came the real test. How would I handle a menu that was deli-like in its offerings? As we all know, a deli-like menu is the worst kind of menu. Crammed full of totally disparate dishes from around the world, a deli menu taunts you both with its sheer number of choices and with its ever-present bagels with lox. How can one resist? With one minute on the clock, I skimmed over the catalog and chose the sesame crusted salmon. Let’s be real, I don’t LOVE salmon but it seemed healthy and solid. Done. Decision made. I then watched as George and his date sunk into the all-too familiar vortex of food ordering. Would they get the meat loaf, or the fish tacos, or what about the curry wrap? And what was in a curry wrap, precisely? Was there mayo? I wondered what this entire exchange meant about them. Were they being thoughtful or over-thinking it?
Free from the decision-making process, I sat back and watched my own familiar routine of flip-flopping between dishes. I was truly amazed at how much free time I had on my hands. If I could stick to this, I could reclaim minutes, if not years of my life. In the end, my salmon was so-so; but the small pride I felt in having made a decision in record time was delicious.
Test 2: A Day at the Spa
The success at the restaurant emboldened me to try something riskier. My friend Alessandra suggested that if I was in the mood to make choices, I should go to The Olympic Spa in Los Angeles. Far from your run-of-the-mill relaxing experience, this was the Nickelodeon’s Guts of spas. A massive complex of soaks, steams, saunas and even a BBQ joint, Olympic Spa requires one to maneuver through decision obstacles. But should I go at all? Alessandra explained the place had one more perilous element; it was a completely naked zone. I’m not totally comfortable being naked in the privacy of my own body much less in front of strangers. With time on the clock dwindling I decided, “Okay, yes. I will go to naked town.”
When I arrived, the spa was bumping. The receptionist, in a hurried state, asked if I would like a treatment today. Here came the familiar inner monologue: “What if I spend too much money here and then I miss out on some sick new adventure down the road? What if I hate it here and want to leave but then feel trapped because I made an appointment.” And aren’t spas supposed to be relaxing? Was I already failing at “letting go”?” My anxiety would have to wait; there was no time for dithering. I chose to get the least expensive option on the menu as a hedge. Whatever the Akasuri Scrub was, it was cheap enough that I wouldn’t hate myself if it was not the best choice I had ever made.
With a scrub on the calendar, I entered a collage of naked: every type of body and lady totally exposed. This was do or die. Would I join them? Snap choice: Yes. I dropped my towel and set off for my next task. To soak in the hot Mugwart Bath or to sit in the Jade Steam Sauna? To lie in the Himalayan Crystal room or to eat a little Bibimbap? There were too many things to do! I was panicking and time was running out. But I would not be defeated! With seconds to go I chose: it would be the Mugwart Bath, mostly because it sounded like something out of Harry Potter. Soaking in the hot, herbal bath with three older Korean ladies, I could barely think. The water was so hot that my thinking brain turned off and I just experienced. Sort of feeling like I would pass out, I had an “ah-ha” moment . I was in an amazing soupy bath now and if I were to calculate the value of my choice and the prospects for my next decision I would no longer be in the bath. I would be in some weird head-space of anxiety. And that sounded like no fun at all. If I had made the choice to be in the Mugwarth Bath then why not just commit to it fully and enjoy the moment? Sure, the Charcoal Sauna might be for the fabulous people with the fabulous lives and all of the answers. But I wasn’t missing out. Submerged in the murky stew, experiencing something that felt right in that moment, I no longer knew FOMO.
Results: Snap Decisions Help You Commit and Enjoy
After two weeks of living my life by making snap decisions, I’ve ended up saying, “yes” to more than I normally would have. “Yes” to the stationery covered in gold hearts, “yes” to an after hours exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum, “yes” to the large container of almond milk, but “no” to the vintage sequin belt. In following my therapist’s advice I’ve found that I’m more likely to get out of my comfort zone and less likely to waste my time with FOMO. Making snap decisions forced me to stop obsessing with what I could be doing and enjoy what I was doing.
Have life advice for me to try on? Let me know in the comments.
Featured image via Shutterstock