One of my discussion groups was discussing how our lives are shaped by decisions we made along the way. There is a somewhat new agey idea that all of our decisions are the right ones because they got us to where we are today. My group all agreed there were some “growth opportunities” we would just have soon skipped.
I think it is fairly typical to spend time rethinking decisions. You probably have seen story lines for movies and TV shows, mostly of the Lifetime/Hallmark Channel variety where one goes back to a crucial point in life and makes a different decision. Invariably the plot line brings us to the conclusion that the original decision was made to get us to where we are and unless you are a homeless, drugged out street person you made the right decision after all.
What are the major decisions I could rethink? I can think of many mile stones or turning points in my life. Each is worthy of a separate discussion. Let’s begin with the decision that is probably the most life shaping one most of us make.
The person we marry.
It’s true my marriage didn’t last. I married at twenty for what was a common reason in those days- escape. I wanted out of my family home, I was tired of the struggle to find the money for college and I wanted a bigger world. Besides, everyone else was getting married. I was student teaching at the time and the psychology teacher told me I was making a mistake, the marriage would never last. He was right, it lasted only 22 years. Was it a mistake? Would I change it?
There are so many aspects of who I am today that came out of that marriage. The obvious is my daughter and my absolutely fabulous grandson. But also the growth it afforded me.
I did get out of my small, narrow minded home town. I married a military officer and being an officer’s wife in those days required white gloves, a hat and impeccable manners. My peers came from private colleges or fine southern families where girls where raised to be ladies and proper wives. From my blue collar background this served as a finishing school. Today, as a professional woman I am thankful I had that training. Of course some of the conventions have been set aside along with the gloves and hat. Calling cards have been replaced by the business card and there is a certain proper protocol that goes with the exchange of cards. Oh, and it is OK for a lady to leave a card with a gentleman. I shake hands also. I still do not walk while carrying a cigarette (there were a lot of rules around how to smoke but since I didn’t smoke it was mute) but it is OK to hold a cocktail while standing and heaven forbid, sit on a bar stool.
I married a man who was intelligent and read books. When he told me he read books I thought, “Doesn’t everyone?” No he devoured books. There was a book on every table, beside every chair and on any flat surface. The local library had to order more books to keep him supplied. While I never became that obsessed, I still have a good relationship with books and my offspring has inherited her father’s love of books. I grew up with only the bible and a set of encyclopedias in my house. Both pretty much untouched except for the summer I was going to go through the encyclopedias. Not sure I made it past the A’s, well maybe the B’s.
I married a man who loved music, mostly jazz. Ella, Frank, Miles where staples at our house. First in records then miles and miles of reel-to-reel tapes. (I know there were miles and miles when my toddler decided to unwind them one morning as we slept) One of my life stories (there are 27) is that I saw Miles Davis live. This is a good conversation starter when I am among musicians. I’ve expanded the repertoire but today I love live concerts and am grateful for iPod and Pandora Radio.
I married a man who attended law school. Law school was my dream when in high school. I am not sure. I don’t think I even knew what lawyers did but I was attracted. I didn’t follow up. My story is that I didn’t pursue law because everyone discouraged me because I was a girl. The real truth is I didn’t have the confidence to follow through. When my husband was in law school I loved hanging out with the study group. I loved that I could keep up with the conversation. My husband once told me that I caught on a concept right away that his class had struggled with the entire class period. I loved the logic and the thought patterns. Someday I would go to law school. Someday.
So that decision certainly is in the category of I wouldn’t be where I am today. There were other decisions that led me here. Other decisions might have taken me on a completely different path. The discussion continues on to another day.
What are some of your major decisions? What did you learn? How would your life be different?