What I Didn’t Know as A Teen about Life

When I was a teenager, I knew that in my future I wanted a loving husband and several children. I knew that much. I also wanted a career since I knew from watching my mother get her Ph.D. as I was growing up that having intellectual stimulation and economic freedom contributed to happiness. I saw myself in a helping profession, such as psychology like my mother or else teaching at a university. I had no doubt that I would get an advanced degree – at least a Master’s – and I wanted to travel and see the world. I also knew that I wanted to live in a city for at least a while since I had grown up in a small Texas town and already was aware of the pros and cons of that life. I hadn’t ruled out living in North Central Texas where I’d grown up, but I knew for sure that I wanted to go out into the world and see what else was out there.

Now I am in my sixth decade and I have accomplished a few of those things I planned. I earned a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and I lived in Italy for a year right after I graduated from college. I have also traveled to Europe quite a few times during my life. Plus, I have that loving husband and three beautiful children, two beloved sons-in-law (and a 3rd important person to one daughter), and three darling grandchildren. However, the rest of my life is not as I had planned.

First, I’ve lived almost 30 years in Beverly Hills, which is a place that conjures up a whole host of images for most people, including myself. While I am far from the stereotypic BH resident, I have been actively involved with the school system here, have worked with countless parents and students over the years, and have made some good friends along the way. I would have never dreamed that would be part of my life story. Second, I worked as a professional therapist for only a few years and instead have spent most of my adult life buying and selling antiques, writing both fiction, and nonfiction, and also working with students on all aspects of writing. I could never have anticipated that shift in my focus when I was a teen. Third, I have not traveled as extensively as I would have liked – I have only been to Europe, Mexico, and Canada – and I would like very much to see much more of the world before I die. I guess that remains to be seen.

So, the question is, Has this change from my anticipated life as a teen to my “real” life as a mature adult been good? The answer is more complicated than one might first think. Of course, I am grateful for my family. They make up the best part of my life and I couldn’t be more thankful for their presence. Also, I love that my life has been more adventurous than expected, that is a definite plus. However, what I couldn’t have known as a teenager is that life is unpredictable, which makes planning a bit trickier than one might think.

For example:

How could I have known that I was going to marry a man who would open my eyes to the world of art, antiques, and design? I might have stifled a small laugh at that possibility when I was 16.

How could I have anticipated that moving to a city would also mean caring for my brother who had contracted AIDS? I had never heard of this disease when I was in my teens because it did not exist then.

How could I have guessed that my passion for writing would be the primary reason I would land a teaching job (without a teaching certificate) at one of the premier private schools in LA? I had never even heard of this school before I answered their blind ad in the LA Times.

How could I ever have predicted that teaching only one short year at that school would give me enough referral sources to last 20+ years as a private writing teacher with the freedom to make my own schedule so that I could be home with my children and have more time for my own writing?

The answer is: I couldn’t have.

What I know now that I didn’t know as a teenager is that “unknowns” periodically present themselves in life and these unexpected circumstances have a way of shifting one’s path in directions that could never have been anticipated.

So, of course, I am happy that my current life is as full, rich, and blessed as it is. I am even happier to know that more zigzags will crop up on my life’s path in the future. Thank God for those unanticipated turns. They can make all the difference.


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