I'm one of those people who bases a lot of what I decide on how things make me feel. But before you can really trust your feelings you need to understand them; instincts serve us well except when they're the wrong instincts, for the wrong reasons.
Using emotions to make decisions is not a simple matter of a negative feeling meaning "no" and a positive feeling meaning a resounding "yes". Sometimes, I feel good about things because they're familiar or comforting, but they're precisely the outcomes I want to move away from or push beyond. Other times, I can feel negative about something that just requires me to summon courage.
So there needs to be a doubling down on the process.
Decisions are visceral, yes, but they're also about reasoning through the visceral, making sure choice is really underpinned by the right feelings. In that way, we use both reason and feeling. I fully explore my feelings and unpack them, not to undermine them but to become more certain of their veracity. And I've found that constantly doing this has honed my emotional intelligence too; there's less of a duality between conscious and unconscious feeling, between reason and feeling too. And in that way, I feel more coherent, less conflicted. And happier.
I've been thinking a lot about this as I'm faced with making certain decisions. People have asked me to articulate how I will boil down the choices and it has felt insubstantial to say "it's all about a feeling", though it would be dishonest to say it wasn't, that feelings aren't a huge part of it.
But there's this too: I also believe decisions only matter as long as you allow them to. Everything in life is in motion and a good decision can swiftly become a bad one, or vice versa. And not because of the decision-making moment, but because of what follows and what follows that. Ultimately, the important thing isn't just what I choose, but the manner in which I live out those choices.
I think this is something emigration really taught me. Often, in that difficult first year, being here seemed so arbitrary, such a strange uprooting thing to have done to myself. I defied that feeling and kept going, building friends and relationships and a home and a sense of belonging. In itself, emigration was neither good nor bad, only different and dramatic. The decision to emigrate only became a good one over time, and with profound, transforming effort.
But I also believe mutability should always be permitted. A decision made in a moment is one made by an individual existing in that moment. The twenty-something me who chose to emigrate, for example, was not the nearly-forty me I am today. (In some ways, her actions surprise me immensely!) I trust who I was then, but that doesn't mean I feel resoundingly that I would make the same decision today. I can simultaneously not have regrets but think I might do something different, or that perhaps I would do the same thing but for different reasons and with different feelings.
I love this moment, though, on the cusp of a choice, indulging in hope, that most luxurious of feelings. And though we easily knot ourselves up in the difficulty of decisions, it's good to remember the intense beauty of such freedom and of being able to build your own life.