Sense of loss (of options)

There are things you once have and then gone. But there are also options that gets discarded when a choice is made. The choice you made cease being an option but just the path you go down. So you are losing all the options when you make a decision.

Our modern, liberal, capitalistic society celebrates some kind of freedom in the form of optionality. But life is essentially about removing options continually. In fact, as I learnt from Oliver Burkeman, the latin word for “decide” has the element of “cutting off” which is why it looks similar to “homocide”, and “suicide”.

The question is how we experience losing this optionality as if it was an actual thing we had. The problem with holding on to options is that we never really get to enjoy what they actually stand for by holding it. In order to move forward, we actually have to embrace a decision and sacrifice optionality. That is a gain rather than a loss.

But for some reason, that is still so strongly felt as a loss. The framing is probably a result of a lifetime of being conditioned into thinking that we should always be trying to build more options for ourselves. Even in school, we have more options when we do well and in many cases, we wanted to have more choice over the subjects we can do by doing well academically. What is less obvious is that shedding those options, and coming to a focal point on what to do became incredibly painful when one spent a long academic career amassing options. We can’t seem to appreciate that life is really about eliminating options – but sooner or later, we will have to.