Week 8 – The Paradox of Choice

Date: 21st May 2020
Days unemployed: 48
Days spent looking for a job: none
Days spent in isolation: 63 (9 weeks)

Last night, Mr K was talking about how he had finished working on a few songs and wasn’t sure what to do next. The songs he had been working on were requests from other people, with something they had started or thought of, that he could build on. When I suggested that he writes a song himself, he laughed. He wouldn’t know where to start. There were so many things to choose from that it made it impossible to start. Which reminded me of the theory of the Paradox of Choice. And how it’s part of my struggle right now.

Crossroads

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself having too many choices when it came to running races. Which is new. As lockdown started in the UK, many races started being cancelled or postponed. Which was a relief at first as my marathon training had gone very poorly at the beginning of the year. And a number of organisations started offering virtual races. I got tempted straight away with a format I’d never done before: a virtual backyard ultra. In this type of race, you run a 6,706 km (4.167 miles) lap every hour, on the hour. There’s no finish line. You stop when you’re done and there’s only one winner, the last person to finish a lap. I wasn’t in it to win it, but for the challenge, to see how far I could go. I went out for 7 laps. Which is just over a marathon distance. I was pretty pleased with that given that I didn’t train for it. I believe I could have done 1 or 2 laps more but I didn’t want to destroy myself. This was still a huge strain on my body.

The following week, I signed up for a virtual 14.1 km race (a weird distance for weird times), and then a friend suggested we join a virtual league. Each week we race a different distance. So every week for the past 6 weeks, I’ve been racing. I’ve signed up for a couple more virtual races and invitations keep coming for more. To a point where I don’t know how to choose them anymore. I’m being overwhelmed by choice. In a pre-Covid19 world, I would choose events based on where they were taking place, how much they cost and whether it was fitting in my calendar. This really limited the scope. Now, some of these constraints I’ve disappeared. I could sign up for an event created in the US, Japan, Australia. A lot of them have been discounted or offer free entry so cost isn’t a constraint either anymore. And I have all the time in the world at the moment. So how do I choose?

I’ve added some constraints back in my schedule. About 10 days ago, I remembered that I have a couple of non-virtual events still scheduled for August. They’re currently due to go ahead, so I need to start training for them. And they’re not running races (one’s the Prudential RideLondon, a 100-mile cycling event and the other one an Olympic distance triathlon in France), so bike rides are to be added to my week. For added motivation to get on the bike, I’ve also signed up for a challenge to virtually run/cycle the length of Britain by the beginning of November. This has stopped me from entering more virtual running races (well, almost!), but this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Last week, my last couple of ride and runs felt really hard. Harder than they should. I started feeling really tired and my throat started hurting. I had already had a bout of being really tired a couple of weeks beforehand and took 1 day of rest. This was the same but worse. That’s when I realised I was having a mini exercise burnout. At a time when I have all the time to train and rest, and no work stress. This is when I’m hitting a breaking point. How ironic.


Choice

Unless, there is still underlying stress. Which wouldn’t be a complete surprise. I’ve been out of work for almost 2 months now and I’m not any closer to finding my next assignment. I’ve signed up to 3 different courses in the last few weeks. I’m struggling my way through them, trying to uncover what I want to do next. I’ve done a career assessment test, which brought up other things that I could explore. There are books I want to read to narrow down on that.

Most of all, I worry I’ll make the wrong choice. When I do make one. In today’s world, there are so many things I could be doing if I wanted to. I have the time and the financial cushion to explore and retrain. I don’t have children to look after and I have a supportive partner. The lack of constraints makes it impossible to choose. How do I find the right career, the right next step when I have to choose between hundreds of options?

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