How Does One Choose Between Two Paths? (Part 1)

When you find yourself at a crossroads in life, in theory, you are are supposed to choose one path, one direction.  But what happens when each path is equally satisfying and elicits a passion in you that, despite desperately trying, you cannot deny?

I first had this dilemma well over a decade ago when I was poised to enter college.  I needed to declare a major for school and I was torn – I mean really torn.  I made lists.  I consulted friends.  Yet still, both paths were laid out for me.  So, I did what most teenagers do, I said ‘screw the crossroads’ and ran between them, almost recklessly, one hand touching each path. I declared two majors – my two loves: art and psychology.

My love of art goes back to as long as I can possibly remember.  My mom has drawers upon drawers of my artwork and my parent’s basement is stocked full of canvases and old art supplies that are long past their expiration date, but too close to my heart to discard.  I have always found solace in art, especially photography.  This, combined with amazing and encouraging art teachers and a father who used to be a professional photographer, placed me on the path of the photographer.  It was a whimsical path. One that connected me to a community of diverse, talented, and eclectic people.  One that kept me in the studio or the dark room until late hours of the night, bonding with other students over vending machine food.  I know it was a difficult path, one of full of challenges and self evaluation, but looking back, it was magical.

My other love, psychology, began in high school.  After having anxiety for virtually my entire life and suffering from debilitating panic attacks, it was an amazing relief when I discovered in AP Psychology my senior year of high school what was actually going on with me.   More so, this self discovery was liberating.  To understand, at such a vulnerable age, that I was not the broken girl I believed myself to be, but rather experiencing something very common and very treatable, was profound.  I made a pledge that year to pursue psychology and help people understand themselves like I had not until I was almost 18 years old.  I have not looked back since that day.  This path was difficult as well and I question it often, but instead of magical, it was more emotionally satisfying.

Five years ticked on and I followed both my passions.  I knew I wanted my Master’s degree and that starting my career right out of college was not part of my dream. What I had not realized was that ultimately, I had to make a choice – a very difficult and life changing choice.

“Path to Nowhere”

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a professional training on childhood brain development and trauma.  One of the things that I learned, and I apologize for not having the literature to cite, was that our brains do not fully develop until we are 25 years old.  So really, looking back now, what right did my 22 year old brain have making the decision that would change my life forever?  None really.  Luckily however, I was a bright, level-headed, albeit overly idealistic young woman and the decision as to pursue art or psychology at a graduate level was not taken lightly.

I knew that if I pursued art, I would be subjecting myself to a life of possibly not being able to exercise my passion full time – the photography world is saturated and my connections were weak.  I realized that I may be dependent on others – which was not my thing – and that paying bills could be an issue.  Also, for whatever reason, in my 22 year old head, it seemed selfish.  Why would I pursue a potentially non-lucrative field when I had the opportunity to become a licensed therapist, at least pay the bills, and ultimately help people?  My choice was clear.

In 2008 I exited graduate school with a Masters of Arts in Forensic Psychology.  I was pledging my life to working with those involved in the criminal justice system.  I became a counselor and I had chosen my path.

And ultimately… somehow… I found myself working in the criminal justice system with perpetrators of crimes against children.  I’m not quite sure how I got there.  All I know is that I graduated on a Friday and on Monday I started the rest of my life.  But I chose my direction, my calling and just like that my adventure began.  (To be continued…)

Discussion:

Have you ever found yourself at a crossroads, not knowing which way to go?  How did you deal with the situation?  Did you run freely between the two paths or did you finally have to choose?

*My personal essay consists of a 4 part blog series.  Please make sure to keep reading throughout the week. Thanks, A.*

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