They used to have retail establishments called department stores. Before you registered everywhere to get everything for wedding gifts, you went to one of these places to let everyone know what you needed to start your home. You picked out your towels, dishes, bedding, etc.

That’s when the trouble started.

And, it started with the place-settings for our everyday dishes.

See, I’m a pretty simple creature when it comes to things like towels, dishes, bedding, etc. What I mean is that I don’t really have a serious preference about any of that. I was coming from the fraternity house lifestyle where cinderblocks and milk crates were furniture. Art consisted of sexy women selling beer installed with push-pins. So, when it came to decor for our first apartment, as long as my bride-to-be was happy with it, I was happy with it.

Which is precisely what I should’ve said.

Instead, what I said (repeatedly) was, “I don’t care.”

Exactly. My guess is that my female readership needs no explanation of what I did incorrectly, but for the benefit of the guys that read, here’s why that’s bad:

And after about 20 or so usages of “I don’t care” over the myriad of decisions about towels, dishes, bedding, well, you can see why my bride-to-be would become frustrated enough with me and get her feelings hurt. She rightfully heard that I really didn’t care about the items that would be the props of our sharing life together. Yep. There was a serious (*ahem*) discussion.

From my point of view, the only input I felt necessary about the dishes were two realities: I didn’t want some sort of barnyard scene underneath my food and I needed deep bowls that I could hold in one hand for any and all Lucky Charms binges while watching sports. That was all. After that, if she was happy, I was happy.

The problem is that there were over 50 place-settings of everyday and fine china on the wall. It was overwhelming. Too many options. Led to a paralysis of sorts. It was easier to say, “I don’t care” and kill time until I could get out of the store.

Frankly, it was that way three years earlier when I was making decisions about my career. I went to college and chose engineering as my first major, because that’s what everybody said my college was known for and you could make a good living. It was easy to check the box and move on. Failing the calculus class negated that decision, and my next college major was accounting. Everybody said I could take over the family tax business when I finished. Sitting in classes and writing numbers in rows and lines of green/white paper for an hour made me realize that I couldn’t do it for 50 years. Then I changed majors several times within liberal arts based on whatever cool class I took that quarter.

Finally, the girl that would become my bride-to-be helped me figure out what it was I wanted to do. It was pretty simple, really. I loved studying my Bible and sharing what I learned. I loved the relationships built in among the guys in my small group. Turns out there was a career that combined those two things. Smart girl I married. She put 2 & 2 together. I’m glad I followed her insights.

Now 24 years later, I feel like I’m staring at that overwhelming wall of place-settings again.

I walk into a flower store and think, “You know, being a florist might be kinda cool.”
I have a beer and think, “I could start a microbrewery.”
I watch a football game and think, “I could be a high school offensive coordinator.”
I listen to music and think, “I could write songs.”
I go to the movie and think, “I should be a movie critic.”

And so it goes…

It leads to a paralysis of sorts. All I want to do is walk around, browsing and killing time until I can get out of the store. Very John Cusack in Say Anything: “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that. I can’t figure it all out tonight, sir. Tonight I just want to hang out with your daughter.”

And right now, I know what I don’t want.

After that, it’s wide open.

And it feels like there are too many options.