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“You can’t ever know in advance. Big decisions require faith.”

– from S., by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

Today I decided where I’m going to live for the next year.

I’ve had to move many times in my life, and as I look for a place, what I’m always waiting for is a certain feeling. It’s a sense of rightness, a sense of “Yes, this is my home.”

There’s nothing mystical about this feeling. I think it happens when enough aspects of a place line up with what I want. I think carefully about I want ahead of time too: how much I’m willing to spend, what features are absolutely non-negotiable (pet-friendly, space for my piano), what features are exciting bonuses (walk-in closets, lots of light).

When I see enough of what I’m looking for, when all the little details filter through my brain, the feeling begins to wash over me. It’s a vision of a future where I can imagine myself being happy and safe, where I can imagine Nala being her usual happy doggie self, where I can see myself writing and making music and being surrounded by friends.

The most important part of home.

The most important part of home.

The build-up to this decision takes forever. Not only do I have to seriously think about what I want, I have to do lots of research, go see a bunch of places, and adjust my expectations according to what’s available. But the decision itself is easy. I just know. I’d decided to take my next home by the end of my tour. All that was left to figure out was the details.

Big decisions can be so overwhelming, because we can’t know. We can’t know how it’s going to work out. We can’t know for sure if we have all the information we need to make the best decision. We can simply try our best to learn the relevant facts and then take the leap.

When I look back, it’s amazing how many of the decisions I’m most happy with in retrospect are ones about which I just knew.

I just knew Nala was my dog.

I just knew I wanted to be a writer.

I just knew I wanted to go to school at UC Santa Cruz.

I’ve just known when I’ve met several of my friends that they were people I wanted to be in my life.

I just knew which writing project to work on right now.

That’s not to say these decisions didn’t also involve dithering. That’s not to say I had no doubts. I dither; it’s part of my process.

But when it came time to commit one way or another, I just knew. And that knowledge gave me the courage to take the necessary leap.

Looking back on your life, when have you just known?

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