Features / News

Comfort Zones & Cholesterol

By KYLEN BAO, Co-Editor-In-Chief

I’VE ALWAYS been afraid of making the wrong decisions. When I was younger, I was addicted to Choose Your Own Adventure books at the library. I remember scouring through the outcomes of every possible choice, afraid of commitment—after all, you don’t have to make a decision if you’ve made all of them, right?

But as I grew older, I found myself facing difficult dilemmas that extended far beyond the pages of children’s books. Whether it was choosing clubs to join, trying to fool my driving instructor into thinking I could parallel park, or deciding between white or brown rice at Chipotle (solution: just get both), I was scared to make the wrong choice. It was painstakingly hard for me to step into the unknown

Lately, I’ve been thinking about our human tendency to procrastinate big decisions that are important but fear-inducing, like how I’m finalizing this farewell the night before it’s due. This idea is inspired by a blog that I follow; the blog lives on bakadesuyo.com (bakadesuyo is a Japanese word that translates into “made you look”). The author, Eric Barker, uses scientific and statistical research to teach his readers how to be awesome at life.

According to Barker, people are slow decision makers for two main reasons: first, we can’t decide whether to rationalize or go with our gut, and these paths often don’t lead to the same place. Second, we aim for perfection too often, which makes our brains unhappy. Barker suggests that people approaching the end of their lives are better at making life decisions because they face a shortage of time and an abundance of perspective. If at 18, we took more chances and weighed potentially negative consequences less, we’d live like fearless octogenarians.

Over the past couple months, I’ve taken Barker’s advice to heart. I’ve tried to be more spontaneous—partly because of the fact that I want to break through my comfort zone, and partly because of the fact that my pediatrician told me I have high cholesterol. I’ve skateboarded with friends down the streets of Houston at 3 a.m. with a bottle of Yoo-hoo, gotten megged with a yoga ball during an impromptu game of crab soccer, and even combined all three flavors of tabasco sauce in my barbacoa bowl at Chipotle. And while my decisions have backfired every once in a while (don’t drink a gallon of chocolate milk if you’re lactose intolerant), I’ve noticed that I am enjoying myself so much more than if I had to agonize over the perfect, rational decision to make each time

My new mindset has recently challenged me to reflect on the decisions I’ve made in the past by questioning not if they were necessarily right or wrong, but if they were worth it. I’ve definitely made some questionable decisions in my past four years at JP—but if I had to go back in time, I don’t think that I would have changed anything. Sure, maybe I could’ve avoided detention by not sprinting into homeroom at 7:41 a.m. for my sixth late, but would I have met some of my best friends without Flappy Golf tournaments during Wednesday detention? Maybe I could’ve spent more time taking notes on the umpteenth U.S. History chapter of A People & A Nation, but why not create my own history by meeting up with friends to record the world’s worst rap album? Maybe I could’ve gotten my favorite Cool Ranch Doritos from the snack machine every day, but would I have discovered the wonder of Chartwells’ spicy chicken tenders after blindly choosing from the chalk menu?

I’ve spent most of my life trying to make the perfect decision, and I’m sure that almost everyone else has, too. But what I’ve come to realize is that waiting for the perfect opportunity to make the perfect move at the perfect time and place is simply impossible. Don’t wait for opportunity. Seize it, savor it, challenge both yourself and others: yes, you should take that action. Run for student government president, sing your heart out to Michael Jackson for your World History project, try the barbacoa at Chipotle, ask that girl out (April with the good hair?) Because let’s face it: decisions can be overwhelming.

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