The Benefit of Optionality

I always had this thing about knowing shortcuts and backroads to the City. There was always something about knowing where you were and knowing the roads, just in case traffic hit. There was something about knowing a different route without having a hassle. I think the best part of knowing different ways to get somewhere is the comfort of optionality. 

I like options. I think having options is a true form of wealth. In fact, I never understand why we limit our options. And we do this sometimes, don’t we? We think our way must be the only way because if this is what we were taught then it must be right.
Over the last few years (especially over the last seven months) I have been working on a plan to improve my options. Covid and politics have changed my City and the way we live. There are too many fronts and too many arguments.

I want to create better options for myself. I want to find a better plan and learn how to get my way out of a traffic jam.
See, the one thing people miss out on is when it comes to mental health or more accurately, when it comes to mental illness; life does not care about privilege, skin color, ethnic background, wealth, political affiliation, gender or sexual orientation. Life on life’s terms does not care about any of this, even if we do.

I want to find options for myself. I have to because otherwise. as I see it; we are not careful, we have a way of losing to life on life’s terms like water loses to a drain. Options, however, and different pathways are a safe way towards personal happiness.

I learned a few things while being stuck in rush hour traffic and finding the side roads and shortcuts to get me home. I learned there are different ways to go. There are different methods of transportation and different means of communication.
(So I can learn.)
There are different ways to cook a meal and there are different options when it comes to losing weight or maintaining your diet. There is more than one way to find happiness.

For as long as I can remember, I have heard people talk as if “Their way” is the only way. And this might be true in some cases.

I know that mechanical parts work in a certain order. I know that assembling things, like say, a piece of furniture that comes with directions that says, “Assembles in 15 minutes” has a step by step way to create the finished product. Yet, as for the 15 minutes, this would only be so if some people (like me) would read the directions and follow the instructions.

I understand what it takes to mount an automatic faucet in a commercial bathroom. I know this because I mounted more than 300 of them. I remember this well because the first one took me somewhere around 45 minutes. Meanwhile, the instructions read, “Approximate installation time: 11 minutes.”
I started this project with a co-worker of mine. He was my senior man, which meant that he was under the sink. And the directions were right by the way. Once we followed them, the installation time was less than 10 minutes for us.

Sometimes we take longer to learn. Sometimes people never learn from their mistakes. Oftentimes, people do not read the fine print or read the directions. And sometimes we find different ways to accomplish a project. Sometimes we find a different path to the same destination. And sometimes the idea of time or “How long it takes” is simply relevant.  However, people find pride in the fact that they know how to get places in record time because “They” know the best way.

There are different ways to live and different ways to die. I remember back in the 90’s there was a song that began with a man speaking out with a Jamaican accent.
He said, “Six million ways to die. Choose one!”

I think there are people that see life this way. Then again, I think there are people that look at this and think more about the glass being half-full. And to someone like this, they would say if there are six million ways to die then there must be more than six million ways to live. Only, someone like this would never say “Choose one.” Someone that looks to live would choose everything they possibly could.
Hence the idea of optionality.

Optionality affords choices. Optionality allows the freedom to live life in as many different ways as possible.

There are some however that close their mind to the possibility of other ventures and other ways. To some, they believe this is the way that worked for me; therefore, that must mean this is the only way to go.

As part of the recovery world, there is a story about a young man that was new into his recovery. He would chronically relapse. He overdosed a few times and faced new charges with his probation officer. 

As a means towards finding a better grasp of recovery, the young man’s probation officer recommended a drug called Vivitrol, which is extremely helpful when battling an opiate addiction. At the time, the young man was going to 12-step meetings and found a sponsor. Things were good for the moment. Things were working out but the fears from his past were concerns for the young man and his family as well as his probation officer.

The young man consulted his 12-step sponsor and asked his opinion about Vivitrol. The sponsor being loyal to his own personal program disagreed with the suggestion because to the sponsor, this was not considered sobriety. The sponsor explained that if the young man chose to use Vivitrol, the sponsor would understand; however, the sponsor would not be able to sponsor the young man because it went against his 12-step beliefs.

The young man did not want to disappoint or lose this relationship. The sponsor was considered to be “That guy” in 12-step rooms. He was the guy that everyone knew and everyone liked and all the younger members of the group wanted “That guy” to be their sponsor too.

On a day when things were not going well, unfortunately, the young man went back out and relapsed. He picked up heroin. More accurately, his heroin was more like Fentanyl, which has become a deadly game changer in the recovery world.

See, if the young man went on Vivitrol this would never have happened. First, things would have been different because of the chemical breakdown of what Vivitrol does to the receptors. Vivitrol helps with urges as well.

Sadly, because the young man assumed his sponsor was right and believed there was only one way towards recovery; the young man tried what his sponsor told him was “The Only way that works”.  And you know what else? Out of the six million ways to die – this is the way the young died. 

Everyone has the right to their own path, program, method or to a way that works. Not everything will work out as planned. Not everything will happen easily or as easily as we like. And sometimes, we’ll choose a way; only to learn never to go that way again.

I once asked my Old Man how he knew so many different ways to get both to and from the City. He told me he learned from other people. He once told me, “You can’t be afraid to get lost or try a different street.”

I don’t know directions as well as my Old Man did. I do know one thing: The fact that I have options is something that comforts me when I feel lost. There are different ways and different models in life. Choose the ones that fit you best. It certainly beats the alternative.

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