54 Flavors of Choice Fatigue

Standing before me, amongst the big sky backdrop of Suburbia, Texas, stood Super Wal-Mart and Super Target.

I needed toothpaste and undereye concealer (a necessity ever since 7th grade when a classmate told the school I was a cocaine addict), so I decided on the lesser of the two evils and pulled into the stadium size parking lot of Super Target.*

Super Target boasts a grocery store AND retail store. Anything you could possibly want can be found there. You can furnish your entire house, fill up your refrigerator, flare up your closet, and entertain yourself with a plethora of options at Super Target. Want California grown avocados? Super Target’s got ’em! Want visually displeasing bedding from a sell-out designer? Look no further! Need your fix of forced sardonic dialogue and excessive pop culture references? Get the entire series of “Gilmore Girls” on DVD…at Super Target!

It’s easy to get side tracked at Super Target. I found myself wandering into the produce section, picking up fixings for a salad, then subsequently veering into the condiment aisle. I stood, staring at an entire wall of salad dressings. Now, I have difficultly choosing a salad dressing to begin with. At one point two years ago, I had 13 salad dressings in my refrigerator to represent my indecisiveness with life. I scanned from top to bottom to see what Kraft in particular had to offer me. Kraft had to offer over 50 different types of salad dressing there at Super Target that day. 54 types to be exact. I counted out every single one, loudly. For example, this is what one had to chose from if one liked Italian dressing:

Zesty Italian
Tuscan House Italian
Creamy Italian
Golden Italian
Caesar Italian
Italian Vinaigrette
Free Caesar Italian
Free Zesty Italian
Light Done Right Italian
Carb Well Light Italian
Carb Well Italian
House Italian Reduced Fat
Light Done Right House Italian Reduced Fat
Light Done Right Zesty Italian Reduced Fat
Roasted Red Pepper Italian with Parmesan
Special Collection Caesar Italian with Oregano
Special Collection Classic Italian Vinaigrette
Special Collection Italian Pesto
Special Collection Parmesan Italian with Basil
Three Cheese Italian

The phrase “choice fatigue” came to mind. “Choice fatigue” or “choice overload” is the theory that too many choices leads to unhappiness and paralysis in decision making. Well, I think I had just proved that idea correct. I stood there in the salad dressings for 20 minutes. I bounced from intrigue to confusion to pissiness. I left the salad dressings completely empty-handed, exhausted, and angry.

When I discovered the theory of “choice fatigue” earlier that year, it was as if a light had been turned on. Being a frustrated, nonplussed twenty-something, this explained a lot of things. Everyone nowadays is faced with countless options in their daily life, but Generation Y was born into it.

In the beginning of 2008, I quit my career. I wasn’t happy and I didn’t know why. I purposely cleared my slate and decided to start from the scratch. I then spent the following months confused and immobile. I could go in any direction. The possibilities were infinite. The infiniteness terrified me. I could go back to school. I could move anywhere in the world. I could try to climb the corporate ladder. I could not shave my legs and paint fucking leprechauns all day (not fucking leprechauns but fucking leprechauns).

We’re told we can do EVERYTHING, and by God, I was afraid to do anything.

Normally a girl who always knew what she wanted, I felt like I was drowning in the sea of option.

I thought long and hard on why I felt such paralysis.

Why does choice make life more difficult? Nothing is permanent, yet why do we lay such burden on our decisions? Is it because our lives are temporary and making the wrong choice could set us back precious time? Or have we just gotten too exhausted (or too lazy) to contemplate multiple thoughts nowadays?

I realized that for me, is was the former. Then it hit me. I’m losing more valuable time by being afraid. Yes, we’re pelted by the assault rifle of options on a daily basis, but we can’t let it stop us from living our lives.

I made a u-turn with my shopping cart and headed back to the salad dressings. I picked out two salad dressings that day and it felt good. That evening I had the most delicious salad I had ever tasted. A salad made with the freedom I had found in making a choice. Any choice. I’ve tried to live according to that principle every day since.

Now only if the asshole at Kraft who approved 54 salad dressings could limit his.

*My current financial situation and lack of knowledge of the area is currently preventing me from shopping at the independent Mom & Pop shops I’d rather be spending my money in.

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  • Reply Chrissie October 1, 2008 at 6:51 am

    This is an incredible analogy. I agree with you 100%. Now all I have to do is go out and take some action. Too bad it’s easier said than done. I’m glad you picked out your salad dressings though.

  • Reply Rachel October 1, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    I prefer Creamy Italian, yet it’s unavailable in Canada. What does that say about me? I’ve been given less options (in everything) because we think as a couple; but i’m still confused.

    I’m glad your salad was full and yummy, make your life like that salad, and you’ll be okay.

  • Reply Winston October 1, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    I love how everything that came up in our short conversation at the ranch is coming up in your one of your blogs.

  • Reply Andrew Ryz October 3, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    there was a lovely window open to lauren’s mind. i stuck my head in and now i feel like i know just a bit more about her. way to keep something open for us outsiders to your life. you’re a champ. for sure. no- wait… for shizzle.
    yeah… much better.

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