In high school, I was a lost soul. Both of my parents had died and I was just blindly taking steps forward, trying to find my way to adulthood. Before my dad died, as he lay in a hospital bed, he asked me to promise that I would go to college, a specific college that he wanted me to attend, and that I would make something of my life. I promised.
By the grace of God I managed to get good enough grades in high school and get accepted to that college. I was so relieved! (How could I renege on my promise to my dad?) But it didn’t take long for me to realize I really didn’t have what it takes to follow the path I had set out on. So once again, I blindly took steps forward, swinging my arms wildly in the dark recesses of my brain, and hit upon the idea that I should follow my passion of writing and editing. I majored in Journalism and shortly after college I was hired as an editor of a respected publisher. I was launched.
Watching my daughter Brianna head off to college this week brought back some of these memories. Attending my high school class reunion earlier this summer had brought back others. Struggling to find answers about what is going on with my daughter Kate has also brought back memories, of the many times in my life when I found myself searching, for answers, for a path, for a destination.
In high school, everyone asks us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Funny thing is, at that age we think we are grown up. We know exactly what we want to do, and we plan to do it just as soon as all the adults in our lives get out of the way.
In college, some are lucky (or blessed) to know their path, never wander from it, and easily achieve the goal. Others, like me, enter college with one goal in mind, struggle, fall off the path, pick ourselves up again, find a new path and a new goal, and eventually reach the end.
For me, life’s plan was clearly laid out from the moment I was born. You go to grade school, then middle school, then high school, then college, then you get married, then you have kids, then you have your career, then you retire, then you die. Simple.
Not quite. It is a wonder to me that I managed to find my way all those times when I blindly moved forward in life. Indeed I fulfilled that promise made to my dad, but what would he say about the person I have grown into if he were alive today? Would he agree that my life and who I have become is what he had imagined?
A few months ago many of my high school classmates and I were expressing on Facebook how eager we were to go to our reunion and see each other. All of us have reached age 50+ and I suspect we are at another natural searching spot in our lives. Asking ourselves, did I achieve what I set out to do? Am I supposed to do something else with the 20+ good years I have left? I thought seeing old friends would help me to hit on some answers, and I suspect many of them felt the same way as I. As it turned out, I didn’t get any answers while attending our reunion. I walked away with only more questions. And I’m finding comfort in watching how the Facebook stream has grown quiet now that the reunion is past. I suspect many of my high school friends shared my experience and left our reunion without the answers they had hoped to get.
Recent drama-filled events with my daughter Kate have me wondering if she’s all that happy in her life. Is she searching for answers? She is married, graduated from college, completed her master’s degree, has two children, and is launched in her career. But is she satisfied? Is she rethinking her goals, her life’s destination? I’d like to ask her, but she’s still not talking to me.
Blindly walking, searching for answers. Such a scenario has been played out throughout time, by an infinite number of people. Even Moses wandered, for years, and with a whole community of people! The shepherd David asked countless times, what am I supposed to do? What do you want of me?
I have to admit, when I was Brianna’s age and Kate’s age, I thought ahead to where I would be when I was 50+. I imagined what my life would look like and I saw goals achieved and the satisfaction from having achieved them. I saw confidence and wisdom that can only be gained from life lived. Never did I expect to still be searching for answers. I didn’t anticipate being thrown off my career path and out of the game entirely from a Great Recession. I didn’t think I would still be taking so many blind steps forward, flailing my arms wildly about me, trying to hit on something I can grasp, something that will assist me toward my destination.
Now that I’m over 50, the reality is much different than all my imaginations as a youth. Instead of asking what I want be when I grow up, I find myself asking, who do I want to be?
With all four of my daughters well on their way in life, is it time to switch my Mom hat with a Consultant or Advisor hat? With my husband and I aging (faster and faster with each passing day), do I need to exchange my Young and Adventurous attitude with a Safe and Protecting Caregiver attitude? The truth is, I am growing tired of walking blind. I really want one of those hats that miners wear, the ones with a flashlight beam providing light in the darkness.
There is one interesting thread that has remained throughout the entire fabric of my life’s journey. As long as I can remember I have been writing words on paper. And there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that as long as I can form coherent thoughts in my brain and transmit words to paper through my fingers or my voice, I will be a writer. That is one hat I will wear until the very end. It sustains my breath each day. It gives me strength to stand as I blindly take steps forward. And no one can take that hat away from me.