Undeclared: A meditation on choice

Velcro shoes and reflections
Alejandra Dechet/Staff

I started last week by opening my inbox to the mass email from my advisor that read: “Dear Students, This fall an advising hold will be placed on spring registration of any undeclared student …” I had honestly forgotten I had an advisor, but choosing a major was not something that had slipped my mind.

It wasn’t, however, something I wanted to be reminded of at 9 a.m. on a Monday, causing me to spend the rest of my week in the particular drowning panic that only comes from the sense of uncertainty surrounding the future — prompting me  to go to every possible undergraduate department advisor, desperately hoping they would give me some sage wisdom to guide me down my destined path, before finally realizing that they met me 10 minutes ago and likely know nothing conducive to predicting my future academic destination.

My physical journey across campus in search of a department-home did not give me a mental journey that could be as easily mapped out. Shockingly, there’s no standard flow chart you can use to rationalize each small step in the decision-making process. All the BuzzFeed quizzes in the world aren’t going to lead to any earth-shattering epiphanies.

“My physical journey across campus in search of a department-home did not give me a mental journey that could be as easily mapped out.”

Weighing your options makes it seem as though your choices will all balance out in the end. They don’t. The scale will topple over in one direction, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but people are misled to believe that they can still fit both of their initial options into their final choice.

A choice, by definition, excludes that which it doesn’t choose. That’s not to say you can’t sometimes incorporate parts of it into the path you end up following, but the reality is that your focus ends up strongly pulled in one direction.

This is probably why I’ve never been described as decisive. The last time I had to make a decision with any real weight on my life, I avoided all conversations on the topic until I was forced to officially choose or risk losing my options. I ended up here at UC Berkeley, for whatever that’s worth. And in my time here so far, I feel as though I’ve become more confident, aware, and self-reliant; after all, a decision is not only a direction toward new experiences to increase your repertoire of character, but also a way in which to measure that character development over the passage of time.

There are obvious moments that make you reflect on progress in the way that a life-altering decision does, like your birthday or New Year’s Eve. But there are less obvious ones, too.

 “It’s not so much that the event itself was life-altering, but more that it serves as a marker to be able to reference to identify improvements I’ve made since then that contribute to my individuality.”

Take Velcro shoes, for instance. The last time I owned a pair, I was 2 years old; tomorrow, I will be two decades old, having just bought my second pair. It’s not so much that the event itself was life-altering, but more that it serves as a marker to be able to reference to identify improvements I’ve made since then that contribute to my individuality.

But thinking about using these markers to measure personal growth in the future is intimidating. Who knows what kinds of decisions I’ll be making the next time I buy Velcro shoes or when the next solar eclipse rolls around in 2024? (Hopefully, I’ll be living somewhere less foggy so that I can actually see it.)

Deep down, I knew from the moment I stepped onto campus that UC Berkeley was the place I wanted to be. The fact that I still can’t articulate why I feel a connection but feel it regardless is probably why I’m still here.

But if I hadn’t been forced to at least act on my final decision, I don’t know if my gut feeling alone would have sent me in this direction to become the version of myself that this school has cultivated.

Instinctively, I know what I want to major in. But as usual, I’ll convince myself I don’t until CalCentral forces me into accepting my inclination by placing a hold on my class enrollment.

Maybe destiny has a lot to do with deadlines.

Contact Alejandra Dechet at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @aydecks.