Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shopping Around: How to Choose?

With the way that the world has grown, nationally and globally, our options for many things have dramatically increased, and we have more opportunity to make choices.

In education: In the US, there is mandatory public K-12 education, and many opportunities for schooling beyond that. We have community colleges, universities, trade schools, home schools, private schools, public schools, etc. Even within a specific university, you can have hundreds of combinations of majors, minors, and emphases.

In retail/shopping: It's nice to have options! If you want to spend money on higher quality (or just trendy) stuff, you can. You can also find good quality things for competitively low pricing. I like going grocery shopping and being able to survey the variety of brands and products and choose which is best for me (it reminds me of the description of a virtuous woman purchasing a field in Proverbs 31).

In my social life: When I came to college, I discovered some life-changing facts that have taken years to sink in. 1) That I'm awesome, worth a lot, and can be valued as a person, quirks included, and 2) that intelligent, attractive, chivalrous men do exist and can actually be interested in me sometimes. With a wide variety of friend- and dating-candidates, I could be more selective and develop some great relationships.

However, there are some sneaky, unforeseen issues that can arise with having so many options. How on earth does one make an exclusive choice? It took me 3 years to finally declare a major. I guess commitment isn't too much of an issue in grocery shopping... but in dating? Yeah, that's important.

The past year has been an interesting one for me. I started realizing some things about myself - goals I wanted and challenges I had - that I wasn't sure how to reconcile. Getting married and having a family has always been really important to me, and I felt I was reaching the age/maturity where I wanted to date for keeps instead of just to have fun. But at the same time, I was scared. That's a big life choice, a big change, and one of the most important commitments to make in a lifetime. How much love for one person will I need in order to feel comfortable closing myself off to other potential options? With so many available and attractive options, it can be frightening or disconcerting to make my choice. A permanent choice that I don't want to second-guess or mess up on.

My great-grandma collaborated with my mother to write her biography, and when she died, a copy of the book was given to each of her descendants. It was cool to read through it and learn the history and personality of a woman, my progenitor, with whom I wasn't very familiar while she was here. She and my great-grandpa had been neighbors growing up, and while she dated a few other men in college, she ended up marrying her neighbor boy, and it seemed to be a very natural choice for her. She wrote,
I was outside weeding Mother's flowers and he asked me for a date for Saturday night. I thought he was just kidding so I said, 'Oh sure!' We'd grown up together and were more like brother and sister... A few days later he called me on the phone to check and see if we really had a date, and I told him I thought he'd been kidding me. He said, 'Well, I'm not!' We went together for six weeks before we were engaged and we were married in three months. It wasn't as if we'd needed to get acquainted, we'd known everything about each other all our lives...
My great-grandma could have married one of the guys she met at the small college she attended (saying that she wasn't completely limited to her hometown), but she still married someone she knew from her small hometown. Almost 80 years later, I'm pretty far from my hometown, and I'm in a much larger university than the one she attended. I don't think I'd be very happy marrying anyone I knew from back home, so I'm definitely glad for the wider array of options here, but it makes me wonder... Is choosing a spouse, someone to love forever, any harder now than it was back then? In some ways I think it's definitely more challenging, with the need to narrow down from so many more options. But the core issue - making a decision for life (for eternity, really) - maybe hasn't changed as much as I thought. I'm going to be digesting this idea for a while.

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