Have you ever daydreamed about what would have happened if you had chosen a different path from the one you’ve chosen? I don’t do this often because I’ve promised myself I will live without regrets, but I do wonder about a couple of key decisions I’ve made as a young person with little life experience. A different decision would have drastically changed my life.
For instance, I let my mother talk me out of going to college after high school. I don’t blame her for my decision, but she was a key element in my decision to take business courses like typing and shorthand to be able to go straight into the work force at age seventeen. Working as a teenager in a thirty-year-old world was the worst time in my life. There I was, marooned on an island where the adults saw me as a little kid. Men weren’t interested in dating me, and the boys I knew were away at college. I went a whole year without a date. Making matters worse, my girlfriends were in school, too. I was abandoned by no choice of my own. My class rank was 33 in a class of 667. I should have been on campus burning my bra instead of sitting behind a typewriter from eight to four. It was the only time in my life I wanted to die — seriously, I didn’t want to live any more in that world.
When I turned eighteen that summer, my Aunt Mary in California invited me to visit. I had been writing to her all of my life and now I had the chance to spend a week with this woman I knew only through letters. The trip was exciting in all aspects. It entailed traveling by plane for the first time with airport delays and such, but then, the plane ride was part of the adventure. There were no metal detectors. Family could meet you at the gate. People were relaxed and friendly. The food was good and served on a tray. There was no terrorism stress. It was terrific.
My Aunt Mary met me at the San Diego airport and brought this weary traveler home. (Did I mention we had a six-hour delay in Chicago?) She was so sweet to me. Everyday we had a new adventure. She introduced me to beautiful San Diego, and I fell in love with the oleander bushes that brought color to every yard. I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time at La Jolla beach. We visited an old mission. I went to Disneyland for an entire day with my cousin Carolyn who was four years older than me. Aunt Mary took me to Sea World where I saw the dolphins and whales for the first time. Up until now, I had only seen such animals in books. Most every night we got dressed for dinner and ate in fancy restaurants. It was a trip I never will forget.
Aunt Mary and I hit it off so well, she invited me to live with her. I was torn between home and California. California offered another direction for my life. but I had never been so far away from home, and giving up my job and my car and living in a different place scared me. To this day, I’m sorry I didn’t give it a try. I have lived in Racine all of my life. I see now, this was a mistake. But my world was too small when I was eighteen and I wasn’t in any hurry to expand my horizons. What is it they say? Youth is wasted on the young?
I’m sure we all have such crossroads in our lives. Tell me of a time when you had to make such an important decision about what path to travel, and we can compare notes. Come on. I dare you!