This post was originally published in April of 2011.
When we find ourselves in situations that we know are not healthy, we may also find ourselves agonizing over details in order to delay making a decision. And “practical” advice may not the type of advice we are most interested in hearing.
In Slow Love, a memoir by Dominique Browning, she details a conversation with her therapist about the health, or lack thereof, of her romantic relationship. After listening, Browning’s therapist responds, “Never mind the deep psychological roots here, never mind your confusion. This is pretty simple. Just use the ‘man in the street’ test.” Meaning, how would the average man on the street evaluate the situation. Is it healthy or unhealthy? Wise to stick with it or not?
If we were outsiders to the situations we agonized over, how would we evaluate them? Would we think it was a good idea to quit our jobs before finding another one? Would we drop out of medical school if we were in our final semester, but had decided we would rather become a banjo player? We know what the man on the street would advise. He would say, “Find a job before you quit the one you have. You’re in your last semester, even if you don’t pursue medicine, you’ve come this far, so finish the degree and then work on becoming a banjo player.”
“Yes, but…” we are tempted to say, “You don’t understand.” But as outsiders to our own dilemmas looking in, we would probably, begrudgingly, agree with the man on the street.
The man on the street may not give us the answer we were hoping for, but he may give us perspective to make a decision and move on towards the next step in our lives.