Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I read a group of interviews recently where the interviewees were all asked what was the best advice they had ever gotten. It started me thinking. I mean, how do you choose just one?

More than one person answered how their parents had told them they could do anything they wanted if they put their mind to it. That resonates with me. And it is important - even if it is a familiar refrain. To know that there is at least one person in the world who believes that about you is powerful stuff. But it is intimidating, too, thinking about all those things you could do. How to choose? How to know you made the right choice?
That reminded me of a piece of advice I got almost 20 years ago. It may not be the most significant, but it is one of my favorites.

I spent the first semester of graduate school in Italy. We lived in Cortona, but traveled to other cities/towns every weekend. The ceramics students went one day to the town of Deruta, where they make beautiful decorated pottery. I remember all of us wandering around a warehouse-sized shop, completely overwhelmed. There were so many beautiful options. Different shapes and sizes and patterns and colors. Everyone wanted to buy something, but how to choose?

It was something like this. See? Isn’t it ALL lovely?

I’ll never forget what Brad - the professor - said to us. “Just pick something. Anything. As soon as you walk out the door, it will be perfect.”

This is what I picked - two mugs and a platter like this. He was right. They are perfect.

I have thought of that day so many times. It really helps when I’m feeling overwhelmed and fearful of making the wrong choice. I can tell myself, “Just pick something. It will be perfect.” So I’ve made choices - to live in East Nashville, to work at HealthStream, and occasionally to spend an afternoon doing absolutely nothing. And they have all been good choices.
We - my friends and family - are so lucky. We live in a first world country, are educated, have opportunity, and, for the most part, are healthy. The vast majority of the choices available to us are really wonderful ones. The important thing is to make a choice, so that you can move forward, experience life, and not be paralyzed by options. 

Have I made different choices as a result of the cancer diagnosis? Perhaps that is a question I need to ask myself again in a few years. For now, though, I think what it has done is make me a little happier with the choices I have made. A little more forgiving of any that seem . . . misguided. To feel less guilty about leaving behind the laundry and yard work in favor of an afternoon sitting by the pool, with friends, doing nothing.

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