I recently had the great fortune to have lunch with one of my sisters. That may not sound like a big deal, but it was. She lives a few hours away, and usually when we get together it is because of some big family function or holiday with kids and spouses and a house full of people and there is no real time to connect one on one. This was different. She was only going to be in town for a couple of days and I already had evening plans both nights. So she suggested lunch. I decided to take the afternoon off. What a great decision! We sat at an old favorite local place sipping coffee for several hours, talking; just the two of us.
One thing she said to me has kept coming back. She feels as though she “wasted” a part of her life. She was specifically talking about her 20’s – most of that decade. I know what she means, and in my recollection of that time in her life she was embarking on a career path, but her personal life may not have been all she wanted at the time. I’m not sure I said it clearly enough then, but I will say it clearly now. That part of your life was not wasted, my dear sister. It was preparing you for what came afterwards.
But that got me to thinking about my own life and decisions. Each of us makes choices in life. We choose our friends. We may choose an educational path. Often we choose a career or workplace. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to choose where we live. We choose a life partner; or not. Those choices do not happen overnight, nor do they happen in rapid succession. Most often we make decisions on a continuum; one thing leads to another.
As I look back over my 50 plus years, I know that there are opportunities I squandered and things I could and should have done differently. There are plenty of times when I should have been more helpful, more caring, and kinder. Sure, I have some regrets and part of my youth was definitely misspent. But I also see now that the choices I made at the time ultimately led me to the life I have with my family and career. Perhaps even my bad decisions at times were necessary in order to propel me towards something different.
Each of us begins life with a background. I happen to have been born smack dab in the middle of a family of five children, which may give me a different perspective than some of my siblings had or have. I also believe that each of us is born with certain personality traits. After these basics are in place, the bulk of our life, I think, is created by choice. We cannot predict the outcome of our decisions, only that we have made a selection based on either logic or emotion or a combination of the two.
Honestly, my darling sister, that part of your life was not pointless or fruitless. I saw you then as a young woman who was searching for a path and learning a lot along the way. I was then, and am now, so proud of your decisions to make some physical moves which I know were emotionally difficult and life-altering. You laid the groundwork for the amazing family you have now and for the journey you have taken so far.
It’s no coincidence that one of my favorite poems is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. It is all about making a selection. The best line of that poem, in my humble opinion, is “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.” We don’t always get another chance to make a singular choice, even though we may often think about where the other road may have led.
So while I began this about my sister, I will write this out loud as a reminder to myself and for my daughters or anyone else who cares to read it. We make our choices in life and they form the person we become. Living with the results may be difficult or may be wonderful. Circumstances may disrupt the course we have charted from time to time. But here’s the great thing about having chosen: whether we like our decisions or not, we can always make another.