It’s important to make the right decision for the right reasons. Generally, despite all the cognitive biases we have, we can make good decisions. Why? Because good decisions are only good because we feel good about them. I know that’s all zen, but it’s true. The results of our deisions, or the likelhood of them, are difficult to know and essentially out of ouru control. Therefore, all we’ve really got is the process. I think this is why winning the lottery can be so unsetlling to people; they simply had nothing to do with the process of success and a deision that wasn’t particularly edifying really paid off at least in immediate external gratification.
Recently, I’ve been presented with the choice to stay in France and get a degree from here, or go back to the United States to continue my dual degree program. It has been quite a struggle, but unless I get some good signal otherwise, I’m going to continue with my program. Based on the comparative financial and job outlooks, the fact I get to go to Asia with the dual degree program, and essentially the fact that I can always go to France and look for a job but I’ll never be able to do this program again. Yet I can never live the months I woudl get to live in France again either.
I thought about how I would feel in best and worse case scenarios, and to me reflecting that if I’m really meant to come back to Paris, i will but I can never do this program again (because it will never be offered again) kind of sealed it. I can’t say I want to live in Paris for the indefinite future without also ensuring I have an American degree and network to fall back on as well, and I don’t even know what I’m missing in Asia. It’s hard for me to leave a place where I’ve been so happy, but there’s not even close to a guarantee the environment will be the same if I were to stay. Paris is love yes, but I’m not ready to get married. But I’m happy to have met someone I can see myself in a long term relationship with Paris. And maybe find a real person to marry, maybe here, since in all my travels that is something I long to find. Just as I can come back to Paris, I can come back to the dude who I do have real, yet not developed, feelings for. Il faut laisser le temps faire son oeuvre.
I’ve talked to a lot of wise, smart, experienced, global people about this, and everyone said it was a personal decision. There is no right or wrong answer, I just have to find the one that’s best for me.
Even though, given the circumstances in which I find myself, I am going to continue on my path, I am proud of myself for going to all this trouble. I was able to learn a lot mroe about the Parisian employment scene and ultimately, by making the choice I recommitted to my path. Sure there are downsides, but everything has downsides. I will probably be sad in Philadelphia, but maybe I won’t. Maybe I won’t have the chance to come back to Paris, but even if that’s the case I’ve just got to live here as well as I can in the time I have. Maybe I won’t take the chance to come back because something more interesting will come up. You never know. But at least I’ve fallen in love with the place, and I’ve found somewhere I could stand to live continuously for 2-5 years I’d say. That’s progress I guess, of a sort, since I wanted to find a place I liked that much.
What it all comes down to is subjectivity. I tried to stay in Paris because I am very subjectively happy here in this moment, however fleeting it might prove to be, but Paris alone is not my bliss. And I have to keep finding more of it.
We get all upset and tied up in knots over how to live well because we think it depends on the results. The truth is that it really depends on the process. The result is ever uncertain; the process is subjective but is known. In the search for a scientific perspective and objectivity, we forget all about our feelings and that wealth is defined in economics as subjective well being- nothing to do with money, that’s just a proxy since a lot of people happen to want it. It can be exchanged for things that might bring happiness, or sought for as an end in itself, but ultimately it’s the feeling that counts.
Either decision could have been rationalized in terms of extrinsic or intrinsic goals; human beings aren’t rational but they aren’t rationalizing.
Rationality is a process, a way of thinking that manipulates information in a conscious fashion. Pure reason alone isn’t enough though; there are many ways of knowing. There is no paradigm that will work for all decisions, but there is Wisdom. This is worth searching for, and it has to be earned. Not by “mistakes” but with sincerity and earnestness. Pursue happiness with all your heart and you may not be left with a pile of money but you will have a lot of good experiences and ways of attaining even better ones, perhaps. At least you’ll have perspective on a well-lived life with its ups and downs, and that’s as important at least as maximizing your ups, which are out of your control and transitory after all.
People ask whether its better to lead a happy or interesting life- neither will be of lasting value to you without wisdom to truly appreciate whatever experience. Wisdom can make a happy life interesting and an interesting life happy. Wisdom can unite the subjective and objective and transcent the two. Wisdom comes from God and rationality is the poor flint knife of man. It’s a telekinetic surgical instrument in comparison.
In this case, though I’ve put myself through the ringer, not done my Econ paper and thus am spending a Saturday inside pontificating only to cave into the eventual necessity of writing it, at least I didn’t shirk from knowing what my options were. I evaluated them thoroughly, remain somewhat open but for a closed window of time, and feel better about myself as a result of the process. I’ve spent so much time being afraid of making decisions and false dichotomies that it’s really held me back in my personal and professional life. Maybe that was the lesson, beyond loving Paris, who knows?
Everyone who takes responsibility for their life puts a lot of emphasis on making decisions. Maybe it doesn’t really matter for the result, but the process certainly does for the person’s well being. And that’s what you are making the decision to help anyway, right? Maybe we shouldn’t be afraid of making the decision, or make the decision based on fear, but rather put our attention to making the process the best it can be. It’s not always about where you end up, but how you got there.
Food time, then paper.. missing Bachelorette with my friend dammit.
Ttyl and bisous,