Every yes we say carries with it a dozen nos.
By saying yes to one activity, I say no to a dozen others.
By saying yes to one purchase, I say no to a dozen more.
By saying yes to one career path, I say no to a dozen others.
Every choice I make to includes the choice to not.
All of us make trade-offs. It’s a part of our finite lives.
We do not have infinite time or money or energy. And every choice we make reminds us of our limits.
I was telling Daniel about a case I had once, of a man with dysgeusia (bad taste in the mouth). I’d run through every possible cause for his dysgeusia and ruled out or fixed everything. He was barely eating and was losing weight quickly, so I knew I had to do something. I spent some time researching and finally decided to go out on a limb. We supplemented him with zinc (a therapy with only tenuous research behind it) on the off-chance that it might help (between his current iron supplements and his copious milk intake, I knew the odds were high that his absorption of zinc were altered, so it wasn’t entirely a stab in the dark.)
The man still complained of dysgeusia after initiating the zinc, but his intake improved and his weight started to stabilize. I considered it a success.
Hearing this story, Daniel asked me quite seriously: “It sounds like you did a lot of problem solving in your old job. Do you miss that?”
I confessed that yes, I did. I loved researching problems, figuring out root causes, applying treatments to fix problems. But that doesn’t mean I want to go back to my old job.
The problem-solving was fun, but that wasn’t the bulk of what I did. The bulk of what I did was paperwork, myriads and myriads of government paperwork. I worked 60+ hour weeks. I drove an hour to get to my job a couple times a week. I was barely at home.
At my current job, I spend little time problem-solving. Or, to clarify, I spend little time digging into things that are a mystery for me. I spend a lot of time helping mothers problem-solve, but the majority of the time, the problem (and its solutions) are fairly clear to me after conducting a detailed nutrition assessment. My role is to help mom understand the cause of her child’s problem, and to suggest (or help her develop) strategies to deal with this cause. So I don’t get the same intellectual stimulation of researching problems and coming up with underlying causes and researching potential solutions.
But I spend the bulk of my time actually helping people, instead of doing paperwork. I work just 40 hours a week. I drive home on my lunch break. I’ll take this less-intellectually-stimulating job any day.
That’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.
We finished up our Sunday School on marriage and had a Q&A session with the facilitators (a trio of married couples). I asked a question about how having their first children impacted their marriages and what they did (or would have done) to strengthen their marriages during the young-children phase.
The facilitators gave some direct responses to my question, as did some of our classmates. Others reminded us to enjoy the season we’re in right now, before kids. Many mentioned, in these reminders, the things they haven’t been able to do because they had children early in their marriages: trips they can’t go on, things they can’t buy. I understood what they were trying to say–to take the time to relish new married life without always looking ahead to the next season. But I also considered how there aren’t trips I wish to go on, things I wish to buy.
In fact, when I consider buying things or going on trips after our student loans are paid off and before we have children, my stomach turns as I consider having to continue working a job longer than the current plan demands.
For now, I’m working to pay off student loans so that we can have the financial freedom to do many of the things we want to do (have children, adopt or foster, have me stay at home). For this, I give the best part of my day, most of my energy to my job. The trade-off is that I get home and have little of my day, little energy left for my home – the place I really want to be, the role I really relish.
Once loans are paid off, the benefit of extra money in the bank or extra stuff in our lives pales in comparison with the loss of my best energy, my 40 hours a week.
I turned to Daniel and said, “That’s it, once we pay off loans, whether I’m pregnant or not, I quit my job.”
That isn’t really it. We’ll discuss it when and if that situation arises. It may be that the trade-offs will look different at that point. Maybe adoption will look like our immediate plan and applying my salary to save for adoption expenses will be worthwhile. Maybe it’ll be something completely unanticipated.
Regardless, every yes is also a no, every choice a reminder that we are finite beings, making trade-offs trying to maximize the time we have.
But oh, how I long for eternity, when there will be time enough that my yeses are not also nos.