The Tao of chicken

Everyone’s had those conversations.The ones where there’s an awkward silence and then both parties start talking at the same time and then both stop and then start again and then one says, “Please, you go first,” to which the other politely declines and asks the other person to go ahead.They’re stupid.The same thing happens at stop signs, when one car tries to give the other the right of way and the two drivers just end up shooing the other person on, then pressing the gas, then seeing the other person inch forward, they slam on the breaks.It’s like a game of chicken.For some reason, these were the images that popped into my head when I was making plans for the summer, when I was thinking about study abroad and when I was talking to my dad about future careers.As if, when I was thinking about certain elements of my future, I was waiting for something big to happen to make the decisions for me. I was waiting for the other person to ask me to speak first, to allow me to pull my car in front.As if our lives are just one big game of chicken. One large awkward, interrupting conversation, a stop-sign intersection with two cars each willing to give the other the right of way.Sometimes it just seems like so much is based on the constant back and forth of other people, on situations out of our individual control. And instead of acting proactively, we formulate future game plans in reaction to the people and situations we find ourselves in but don’t necessarily choose.There just comes a point when you can’t wait for others to make up their minds. It’s not as if all of the weighing pros and cons, all of the thinking back and forth, and listing all of the positives and negatives can be overwhelming.But in spite of all of this, I’m not chickened out.When it comes down to it, you’re not allowed to be. No one should go through their lives making all decisions solely based on themselves, just like no one should attempt to base all decisions on external factors.But it seems that balance exists between being overly aggressive – the person that always talks over the other, the car that always goes ahead-and always being the person who gets interrupted and left in the dust. To continue with the chicken metaphor – and all this talk has kind of made me crave KFC?? – I’ll call the first person the “fryer” and the second person the “chicken.”So can you learn a lesson from a four-way intersection, those awkward conversations and KFC?I see three points. There’s always that broad lesson of give and take, and though it’s cliché, it’s important to remember. But there’s also a more subtle lesson here about knowing yourself. If you’re stuck in a pattern of always being one or the other – or others point it out – it’s probably a signal that you need to do something to change the pattern.Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that in certain situations, you might choose to temporarily be the chicken or the fryer.But the real chickens in life aren’t the people that are always getting walked over or always walking over other people. They’re the people who know that they’re chickens or fryers – people who aren’t choosing to be so temporarily – and don’t do anything about it.