Low Agency

I’ve been feeling like I don’t have a choice in the way my life turns out. The mood of this feeling isn’t self-pitying (mostly, though we’ll get to that), more like, “how did I get here?”

An example: I don’t think I could have become a professor. After seeing what the job entails and doing the junior version of it (PhD) for ~5 years, I realized there’s no way I could do it.[^1] Some of my friends just naturally fall into the academic style of work; I don’t.

It feels about as built-in as height for a basketball player. Of course, I don’t mean to minimize all the great work they’ve done, much the same way not every 7' guy gets into the NBA. But I felt like I was about 5'10" trying to run with these guys. I had a couple advantages, I could dribble fast, and I developed a pretty good sense of who to pass to and when, and scored a few baskets. But when the NBA draft comes around, no way I’m going to get picked. Maybe, if I loved basketball 10x as much, or if I had a gun to my head and it’s basketball or death, I could have worked 10x as hard on my dribbling and passing, and made it into the NBA as the rare short guy.

That whole paragraph seems rather one-dimensional and self-pitying. I don’t feel that way. I feel like I just learned basketball isn’t my thing. I met the people who were 7' tall, and I met the people who thought “basketball or death”, and I realized that wasn’t me.

this has to be a balance, right

There’s upsides to feeling low-agency. If you feel yourself to be super-high-agency, like everything is your choice:

But if you feel super-low-agency, like stuff just sort of happens to you:

how is this showing up

Here are some things that I “chose”, that don’t feel like my choice:

I’m thinking it might be useful for me to develop more agency. (It feels pretty awful, like I’d be fighting uphill the whole way, but I can’t escape the fact that it sounds like the right answer.) I wonder how.

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