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.
8 thoughts on “Dance Wherever You May Be”
Such cute pictures of “the little guy” 😊
Its so hard to pick and choose and find that middle way.
I remember my mother’s words when she wanted me to get that higher education to get that better paying job to have a better and easier life. And I remember that I knew exactly that her dreams were not mine and I would not let her talk me into that path. At that point of my life I did know exactly what I wanted and I followed the path and it worked out the way I wanted it and I loved it. And a bit later I even found a way to change my “so ordinary” job into something my mother could see as something better then the norm. I made sure to make us both happy. Lucky I did, she died shortly after.
I am not sure she would see my current position as what she had wanted for me. But I am mostly happy with my job and I can pay my bills, so I think its fine.
Everybody wants their children to be successful and happy and the path to that is very different for each child and family.
I was lucky that I wanted this “easy” kind of job that was not too hard to get to and I even figured out the switch to making it better then average too. (For my mom). But I also grew up with the responsibility thing as your main focus. Thats why my brother stayed in a job he hated for over 15 years. I think I was to self aware or self centered or whatever you want to call it. I would not have taken that shit for such a long time!! Even before my mother died I knew that my happiness is very important for me! If I am not happy in my job I will leave. Life is too short to stay in a miserable job! To please my mom though I would try it as long as I could stand. I knew I was young and patience is not strong with young people. But I also knew when it wasnt a good fit. So I actually ended up not working longer then 2/3 years in any of my jobs. I know my mom would not like that either. They came from the generation of “you pick something and you stick with it”. I admit, I am a jumper and runner. I run from my problems and try new things. But hey, in my job I also learned that there is always something positive in everything, you just have to find it/point it out. So my jumping from job to job actually gave me lots of different experiences which wasn’t bad after all.
I am lucky I have been doing the responsible thing with a job I love and I can always find a good reason to jump onto something new. Mostly at least.
One of my friends has followed the path of his dream mostly all of his life, with his parents supporting him the whole time. Now he is at an age where he is worried about his parents getting older and their support might not be there for much longer and he is getting himself in a crisis mode. He never learned the responsibility path and now he is actually getting upset with his parents, blaming them for enabling him all these years to basically waste his life away. His dream didn’t work out, he feels like he wasted his life.
But shouldn’t he be grateful to his parents for supporting him all these years? For not pushing him or even throwing him to the curve?
They probably thought this is the right thing to do, to make him live a happy life.
I always said these “short”years that I know you, that you guys are doing a good job and have done a good job raising the “not so little anymore” son of yours. I believe you installed the path of responsibility in him. Maybe its time to step back and watch him fly?
I know you all will find a way to make it work and be happy.
I believe one good thing to have is being able to adapt to your surroundings, adaptability…
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Great post, lovely pics.
And excellent reply Jenni.
You are both so very wise.
I’m at the point in my life cycle where I’m spending more time than I would like in reflection of the life I’ve lived, and the life I have left, dreams achieved and dreams utterly unattended to.
I too have always identified as a writer and I’ve let life’s responsibilities and a lack of personal discipline push that dream out of arm’s reach. Even though I write regularly it’s not the type of writing I crave, so I’m always vaguely dissatisfied in that regard. Wondering regularly if I can change that trajectory
Onto the question of trading dreams for paying the bills. It’s such a deep mulitlayered one, and will have different solutions for different individuals.
Regarding Arthur’s academic dreams:
Is there any sort of financial aid available to him besides loans? I agree that loans are kind of a stone around the neck but could be used sparingly.
Maybe his timeline needs adjusting, he may want to consider taking time off to save $, but that can be a pitfall in itself.
Maybe he wants to radically re-imagine his life in the present. Is there any sort of work that suits Arthur that isn’t found within four walls? I had a friend who sold books on Amazon while her kids were in school, she roamed goodwill and yard sales and did well for herself (I understand that the market is now pretty flooded now but it worked then).
Maybe you want to take a good look at whether you can help him out some? Some well timed family help has been an absolute godsend over the years for my family. I’m actually looking forward to how I can do the same for my kids.
And maybe just having some regular lunches for him to keep bouncing ideas off of you will be enough for him to work some of this out.
I’ve had many, many decision points in my life. I can’t say I made good choices at all of those times, and sometimes, it seemed, those choices were made for me. Nevertheless, here I am, battle scars and baggage, mostly intact. We are not the sole architects of our lives — it can’t be helped. But, neither are others responsible for the choices we make — not in the end. Influence and responsibility are not the same. “Should have,” “would have,” “could have” — the trifecta of regret, and a waste of energy. Don’t regret the years spent not following your dream. Those years make up part of who you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
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I remember a teacher telling us one time ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda – words to remove from your vocabulary.
Oh my!! Each of these women have such good words to share and I can related to all of them, including yours Lisa. One comment on Mom’s advice: she had told me that she didn’t care what I took in college as long as it wasn’t art or music so I took journalism. I didn’t end up making a career of that. I’ve had seven years in college and I now have an associates degree. I don’t regret those years of searching for what I really wanted to do and sometimes I think I’m still searching.
I agree that “shoulda coulda woulda “are words to take out of your vocabulary. Another great mom quip “hindsight is 20/20”
One of the great blessings of my life is having been down. Once you’ve fallen and gotten up you’ll never wonder “what will I do if I fall?”. Sometimes that is a gift to give our children. It’s hard to know when they need a hand up and when they need to learn how to get up on their own.
Sometimes a little bit of financial aid from parents is just the blessing that you need to help you find your dreams…..
No right or wrong answers here.
Such wise women commenting here – and how wonderful that I can call them family and friends.
such great words!!! I am glad I know you Lisa and can not only lean from your experience and knowledge but the one from your friends and family as well!! 🙂
I suppose one of those pivotal turning points in life for you was making the decision to walk down that ink-black road in the woods!