I always have had a difficult time making decisions.

When my friends and I went to dinner in high school, picking the restaurant was never my job because they knew we would not eat until 10 p.m. by the time I selected a place.

Strange as it sounds, when prepping for an exam, my favorite moment is walking into the classroom a minute before the test. At this point, I bear no more responsibility for what I should study or what I can do. It is simply time to take the test, which feels like a relief.

My friends used to set a time limit for me in dressing rooms because of one notable occasion where I spent far too long trying on each outfit, over and over. When I searched for a prom dress, I ended up loving the very first one I tried on. Yet still, I insisted on going to four other places before deciding that it was, in fact, the most beautiful one. This exasperated my mother, but I had to know nothing else was out there that I could have missed.

I don’t care much about my clothes, but in those specific moments, it’s as though I form a deep attachment to every potential purchase. When the favorite shirt I tried on doesn’t come in my size, it feels like a genuine disappointment. If I had never walked into the store the shirt would not have crossed my mind, but now I know what I could have had.

I recognize the absurdity of this train of thought. It is irrational to expend mental energy on such unimportant matters. I regard myself as a sensible person, but once options enter my field of vision, often I find myself immobilized by them. My sense of purpose and intentionality erodes. Five hours later when I am out of the store and engaged in other activities, of course I am no longer lamenting about the shirt I couldn’t buy.

I like to think that when it comes down to the important things—who I spend time with, what I value and the type of life I want to live—I know what I want. But when considering tangible options, big or small, I have a difficult time choosing quickly and pushing the others aside. Even after I have weighed out potential outcomes and made a decision, I circle back to the same internal conversations. I will not be satisfied with what I choose until I experience it and know it has all worked out. I have a difficult time grappling with the unknown. I need to latch on to something set and defined.

Like everyone else, I have to make choices for the future that will not play out until months later, like choosing a summer job or where to study abroad. I need to know both sides of the debate before I can make informed decisions. But even when I make what I believe to be a good choice, I fixate on the loss of the opportunity not chosen.

Without a doubt, there are positive aspects to this mentality. It makes me organized, thorough and invested. I know why I do things and do not stumble through life haphazardly. But at the same time, I want to find peace of mind. I want to know with conviction that I can always get myself to a place of clarity and acceptance.

For instance, when contemplating where to study abroad, I cannot shake off a sense of paralysis. This feels like the most important decision I need to make right now even though I know I will have an exciting and enriching experience wherever I go. I will eat amazing food, explore new cities and expand my mind. I can think about this quite rationally when I take a step back, but I find myself stuck when it comes to actually deciding.

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz writes that when faced with many desirable choices, people begin to evaluate hypothetical tradeoffs in terms of missed opportunities instead of an opportunity’s potential. I cannot stop lamenting the opportunity cost of what I could have done and always want to minimize lack of satisfaction or mistakes. In an article exploring a similar subject, my friend describes Maximizers, or the “people who will exhaust all resources to ensure they’ve found the best possible option or done the best possible job. It could mean hours on Ratemyprofessor, 20 college applications or interviewing every person you know about their favorite class at Duke. On the other hand, it also can mean regret, exhaustion, buyer’s remorse and according to many studies, lower levels of life satisfaction.” Reading this, I couldn’t help but laugh as I recalled the fifty classes I book bag on ACES during registration, the numerous professors I email to read syllabi and texts I send to older friends asking for class suggestions. Of course my class schedule does not dictate my quality of life, but I get overly wrapped up in the process of choosing.

I forget that less-than-ideal experiences are as important as great ones because they help me to determine what works for me and what does not. I will not likely take 32 incredible courses at Duke before I graduate. Every day abroad will probably not be the best day of my life. I will not have four flawless summer internships that I love equally before finding a permanent job. Mediocre experiences bring forth a new and different type of value and learning.

Perhaps this behavior stems from my inherent type A-ness: the desire to always find the optimum experience, if doing so is in my control. Maybe it comes from a fear of being unhappy. I wonder if this simply is the way my brain is wired.

Regardless of the source, I want to learn how to curb the constant whirring of my mind. I like to plan in a straight line, to envision a future life, to wrap my mind around a projection I can craft. But time unfolds at its own pace. Instead of agonizing over choices already made and then letting go, I want to reduce the period of moving on. The lingering what-ifs feel toxic. I shouldn’t doubt my intuition so much because there are few things in my life I deeply regret.

I do not know how, but I want to become comfortable heading in one direction and not looking back.

Carly Stern is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs on alternate Thursdays.