Do you ever look back at your life and think, if I’d gone in that direction, where would I be now?
I can see one such fork in the path in my past. My best friend asked me to move in with her and share an apartment in the city. At the time I didn’t think I made enough money so I said no. If I had moved in to that apartment, I wouldn’t have ended up in the mountains. So very many things would have turned out different. I also wonder how many things would have turned out different for her, if I’d said yes.
Recently I was encouraging my son to look at different job options. He’s been applying all over for work but not having much luck. The words that left my mouth were along the lines of ‘stop-gap’ jobs, some money is better than none, you have bills to pay. Of course all those words were related to just one word – responsibility.
And of course they were words he already knew.
He told me later that he was going to have to quit school. He didn’t want to take on student debt, but he couldn’t afford the university, plus save for overseas trips he was going to have to take as a result of his courses, plus pay his bills. I told him we’d talk more when we met for lunch.
A few hours later, it hit me.
In 1977 I was looking at what elective classes I had to take in my senior year. I wanted to take creative writing. I dreamed of being a writer. Not just a writer, but published. Only a few people at that time knew I wrote secretly. Voraciously. My mother talked me into taking a beauty school class.
Her arguments were persuasive. A job as soon as I graduated. A job I could ‘always fall back on’. A job that ‘would hold me over’. Plus I’d save the family money because they wouldn’t have to pay to get haircuts. And if I ever married or had kids, we’d save money there, too.
I took the expected path. And wrote secretly for another twenty years.
Everything I’d just said to my son was a repeat of history – pushing him down the path of responsibility. Pushing him away from his dreams.
Shouldn’t we be able to dream until we learn the reality on our own?
Shouldn’t we be able to hold on to those dreams as long as possible?
The problem has always been balancing the dreams with the responsibilities of life.
The problem is when there’s two paths to take, that middle ground is open territory with no trail. You’re bushwhacking with no compass. So most of us stick to the path, whichever it is and wherever it takes us.
I want my son to pay his bills, to have benefits, to have financial security.
But the thing is, I want him to follow his dreams, too.
All those paths before us. Do you remember when the roads forked before you? Can you pinpoint a time when you went in one direction, and what happened because of that choice?
I don’t regret where life landed me because of the path I took.
But I regret those twenty years.