It irks me when someone utters the sentence, “I had no choice!” Because except for in a very few instances in life, we have, in this country, many choices, innumerable choices. Perhaps, often times, we are blessed with too many choices. For example, walk down any aisle in any supermarket in this country and witness the endless varieties of the same food item: corn or green beans or even brownie mix. There is Chocolate, Double Chocolate, Triple Chocolate, Chocolate Caramel Turtle, Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate Caramel, Chocolate Supreme, Triple Fudge, Walnut, Ultimate Fudge, Milk Chocolate, Seal Salt Chocolate, and, finally, Ultimate Chocolate. And that’s only for Ghirardelli! The choices are dizzying!
But by no means am I an advocate of anything other than choice. Choices are healthy, usually. Choices are important. Choices make us think. But there can also be problems and challenges associated with choices, and choices are not always what they appear to be. Sometimes I must choose the lesser of two evils. In situations in which there are seemingly endless choices, how can I possible make a decision? Let’s say I want to make my friend brownies for his birthday, but I’m not sure which kind of brownies he’d prefer. How do I choose? In this case choice becomes more of a burden than a pleasure, and I fall into a bottomless brownie quagmire!
And there are the times when choice is more of an illusion than a reality. Let’s look at the recent elections in Saudi Arabia in which women were allowed to vote for the first time. While this looks progressive from the outside, especially from the West, as if women are finally being given a voice, the view from inside the country is something quite different, and only a tiny fraction of eligible women actually voted (about 1%). The remainder, including many of the country’s educated and intellectual women, refused to vote, protesting the sham. They pointed out that women in Saudi Arabia aren’t even allowed to drive, and that they had to wait for their drivers to pick them up after voting. They cannot apply for a passport, and if their husband applies for one for them, they cannot even pick it up. They live in a country completely ruled by men and voting is simply the illusion of choice for them.
I have made many decisions in my life; we all have. And many of them included choices, selections, which roads to go down. I do not regret most of them, especially one I made in the winter of 1972.
I met a fantastic fellow the first week I was in London. He was a Greek Cypriot named Kypros (after the island he came from, Cyprus), and we fell in love, hard! We went to bookstores, parks, and museums. We were inseparable. When we went to the British Museum, he translated the Rosetta stone for me. He was in London in school and shared a tiny apartment with his younger brother; I was there constantly. When he invited me to spend Christmas and New Year’s with him and his family on Cyprus, I was both delighted and nervous but made all my traveling arrangements around that plan. I knew what this was all about; I was meeting the family and seeing the future life Kypros was offering me.
In London, Kypros and I had always acted as equals, but as soon as I got to Cyprus things changed. Suddenly, there were things I couldn’t do and places I couldn’t go. For example, the Turkish sides of Nicosia and the Turkish side of the Island were off limits to me as a woman. Perhaps it was the presence of the U. N. troops, but I accepted this, thinking it was for my own safety, and only later wondered if that really had been the case. After all, men went into the Turkish sections….
Some of the life I witnessed there was indeed idyllic, including rising early to pick huge oranges in their backyard on Christmas morning and taking long walks in the undisturbed, mountainous countryside. But other things were far from inviting: walking with Kypros while he shot small game birds which we had to eat for dinner that night, all the while spitting out buckshot, and the lack of running water and toilets when we visited family and friends who lived rurally. All the while I was on holiday I saw my future unwinding before me. I saw myself in a subservient role to my husband on a tiny island made even tinier because half of it was off-limits to me. I saw myself probably pressured into starting a family before I was ready, out of nothing more than, perhaps, boredom. I saw myself possibly unable to finish my education, because the education of women did not seem to be of great importance to the Cypriots at that time. And, perhaps most importantly, I saw myself completely cut off from my family and friends, my entire support system.
I left Cyprus the second of January, knowing that with the New Year I had a decision to make. I had to choose between Kypros and myself. If I chose Kypros, I would most certainly lose myself in a life that wasn’t me, in a world that was not yet for me. If I chose Kypros, the man I loved, I would be eliminating so many other choices I could have later on. If I chose Kypros surely I would come to resent him in time. If I chose myself, I would survive as a whole person, beliefs and ideals intact. What a choice!
Obviously, I chose myself. Kypros never understood why I broke off our relationship. I’m not sure I fully understood it myself until years later, although I knew at the time that it was a profound choice, and the right one.
So, you see, choices are important, and they do make us think. They are not always life changing, e.g., the brownie quandary, but they can be, as was my Cyprus choice. And sometimes, they actually dictate which roads we will and will not follow and where our lives will go.
Emily was raised by extremely liberal parents in the lush and gorgeous Hudson Valley of New York where she was always in sight of inspiring mountains. Her formal education took her travelling all over the world at a youngish age and instilled in her a great love of different cultures and diversities, both tangible and philosophical. She has enjoyed
more than one profession, including that of being a chef, and has cooked for presidents and governors alike. She has lived in Alabama since 1989, though she longs for a cooler climate. Presently she resides in Sheffield, with her beloved husband, Tim, and two very old cats, and near her now-grown, delightful son, Dylan.