Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Cognitive Dissonance of Certainty

A destination has been identified:  Minnesota State University Mankato

This is a school that I have been promoting to my potential BFA students for several years.  Although its a small program, they produce a ton of theater and the work is varied and high quality.  I've enjoyed the shows I've seen there and my students who have gone there have had very successful experiences.  I'll learn a ton there and have oodles of opportunity to reflect, focus and build the toolbox.

That being said, it's definitely not a warmer place to land.  Definite drawback.  ;-)

The story of how I am landing there is kind of a long one, and really follows the backbone of my decision making in pursuing an MFA in Directing in the first place.  Some of it is probably in earlier posts, maybe, but I'll make some attempt to put it all together in the next few days.  Meanwhile, here's some random reactions in the short run.

So, referring back to the two possible paths, it looks like this will be primarily the MFA Directing Sabbatical rather than the Kerouac Sabbatical.  This is, frankly, a bit of a surprise.  It's a crazy competitive world out there and getting a slot anywhere was pretty much a long shot. 

So now comes the reality of a life change...which is considerably different than the fantasy of a life change.  Despite all the various moments that I have had this past nine months during which I could reflect on what this could look like and what I might do with it, or what I was thinking while it approached, that period of anticipation is quickly coming to a close and now comes the cold hard reality of decisions made and buyer's remorse.

Suddenly I have to rent my townhouse, find a new place to live, put together a budget, cancel everything that costs money (because the budget is are going to be poor), pack...what to sell?  What to put in storage?  What to take with? 

Anticipation and fantasy was so much more convenient. 
Psychologically, buyer's remorse makes perfect sense. A consumer switches from one state to another when making a purchase, where the state before they've made the purchase has enormous positive influence, and the purchase afterward loses a great deal of that. Before making a purchase, a buyer is faced with a great deal of choices, giving them a sense of agency and power in the world. They have money or credit to spend, and get to exert their dominance over the marketplace by placing their purchasing power.
 After the purchase, however, all options have vanished. Buyer's remorse may set in as they see themselves locked into a single decision, which may or may not have been the best, and seek their purchasing power reduced. No longer acting from a position of control, many people react by seeking to distance themselves from the purchasing act, to reaffirm their sense of having had a wide field of choices. Buyer's remorse is, in this way, seen as a very simple state of cognitive dissonance, where the desire to retain complete control and infinite possibilities clashes with the reality of actually exerting that control by limiting those possibilities. (
I like the idea that this is all about a new state of cognitive dissonance.  The sense of control and power is still there.  I decided to leave my current job.  I decided to go back to school.  I decided that theater was my main love.  I decided to take the offer from Mankato (and not wait for other possible outcomes).  I decided to do this...but at the same I am committed.  I have things I MUST do now.  Last week I could do anything I wanted.

I'm feeling very petulant these days.

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