The Zigzags of Life

Prompt: How is Your Life Different Than What You Envisioned at Sixteen?

When I was sixteen, I knew that in my future I wanted a loving husband and several children.  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.

As an older adult, I have accomplished a few of the things I planned.  I earned a Master’s degree in Counseling 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 a loving husband and three beautiful children, along with two beloved sons-in-law, a possible third one in the works, and four darling grandchildren. However, the rest of my life is not what I expected.

First, I’ve lived the past 28 years in Beverly Hills, which is a place that conjures up a whole host of images for most people, including myself.  I am far from the stereotypical BH resident, but 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 and publishing 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 sixteen.  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 at sixteen to my “real” life 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 I expected, that has been a plus.  However, what I couldn’t have known at sixteen 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 a teenager.

How could I have anticipated that my reason to come to Los Angeles was to care for my brother who had contracted AIDS?  I had never heard of this disease when I was 16 years old 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 provide me with enough referral sources to last these past 23 years as a private writing teacher with the freedom to make my own schedule so that I could be home with my children and also have more time for my own writing?  

The answer is: I couldn’t have.

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

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

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