Why Your Choices Aren’t Black & White

This poster is making the rounds on Facebook:

Before I had my current job, I’d have believed this. Why wouldn’t we be responsible for our own decisions and choices? Doesn’t that make sense?

Now, if these words help people, that’s great! I’m all for inspirational words coming at the right time to help get you where you need to go.

It’s just that for some (or all?), it’s not that simple. I’ve been learning how trauma affects people’s brains, their choices, and their actions, including how childhood trauma has repercussions lasting far into adult life. You can retrain the brain, but it takes time and effort, and one important piece to that is recognizing that you need to change something. This means you need to understand the causes behind why you act the way you do.

This means, in effect, that “you and only you” may not be responsible for the choices and decisions you make.

I’m certainly no expert, and this is just a superficial look at something very complex. I also don’t want to say that we’re absolving people of responsibility entirely either.

It’s just that lately, I see so many of these posters with statements that sound great on the surface and are passed around to great acclaim, yet when you dig a little deeper, the message isn’t as helpful. We owe it to ourselves to take a step back and really look at the meaning as well as the saying.

Though like I said, if this does help you, then that’s awesome.

I mentioned childhood trauma–check out the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study: http://acestudy.org/.

Are You What You Wanted to Be When You Grew Up?

Yesterday I remembered I wanted to be a forester when I grew up.

The career assessment I’d taken in 7th grade is as faded in my mind now as the mimeographed copy was then, but it popped into my head as I was de-summerizing and re-sweatering my wardrobe. I still can’t draw a connection.

I love trees. But I’m not a forester now, because I couldn’t mark a tree for death, even if it was the right thing to do; I’d feel it too much. It’s the same with “veterinarian,” another choice I recall making on that test. I love animals, but the thought of putting one to sleep fills me with dread. Would the necessary detachment I’d have to summon or somehow naturally feel take its toll?

I realize that ending lives is not the sole part of those professions, but because it is still a part of them, however natural, neither was for me.

Yet I’m happy with what I’m doing right now, being able to reach out and help someone, and play with web content and social media at the same time. I still want to do more writing, singing, and generally creating, but I don’t miss the paths I didn’t take. I’ve forged new paths before me, things I never dreamed of at the time. Paths that have yielded a bounty of experiences, good friends, and invaluable knowledge along the way.

(Note: I did always want to be a steam locomotive engineer, but that choice wasn’t on that particular test, and this was an era where you’d still see “The Boy’s Book of Trains.” Who knows what would have happened?)

Are you doing what you always wanted to? Have your choices led you to something you never expected but wouldn’t want to live without?