My husband and son are out of town on a big adventure for several days and my daughter and I are relaxing, enjoying some down time. As is my habit when I have a little extra mental space and time, I go digging through old boxes in search of old letters, pictures, tokens from my past. Though I have seen this photo so many times this morning it startled me: she’s so young and fresh, like the strawberry she’s posing with next to her friend. At 52, it is wonderful to have arrived at an age where I can recall a story for nearly every little scrap I have saved in my “special box” over the years. Here’s what I remember about this picture.
The friend I am with was a special one for a short time. We were both recently out of Graduate School and beginning our career paths, though mine was in the nonprofit world and her’s was health care administration. Her career-obsessed, interrupting, impatient colleague drove us to the dinner we are enjoying in the photo. I was half-heartedly pursuing what I thought would be a good “career path” for myself, though 50 percent of the people I met who were serious “career-oriented” people were way too intense for me.
Silly then, sillier now. That’s me. But I was ashamed of it then. Looking at this sweet girl in the picture, I want to love her and reassure her that the right Path will find her. That it ultimately does not matter in life who you impress at meetings or how high you are willing to climb to earn a career. The rude colleague of my friend ultimately achieved the highest honors in her career and she received accolades, awards and respect. Good for her. My “non-path path” has been glorious, sometimes painful but always given me the right kind of experience and space I needed to grow.
My son brilliantly summed up for me the most valuable part of any journey when he exclaimed his woes about his second day of kindergarten on the car ride home: “My day was horrible! The teacher only gave us 7 minutes to daydream!” This kid is so my kid. To resist externally imposed structure so resolutely at age 5 was both a blessing and curse for him and I have personally witnessed the toll an absurdly rigid school routine can take on his soul. My advice to him and all you other free spirits out there: trust yourself enough to know that the choices you make in life will yield abundance in many beautiful ways. You may not choose a path that is laden with financial rewards and career milestones worthy of publishing in a business journal. But this much I know: THE WORLD NEEDS DAYDREAMERS!
So the path that found me was the one that was inside my heart as a youngster. I loved getting on my bicycle and playing “carpool” with my imaginary children. Unfortunately, as a woman in the eighties and nineties, it wasn’t very cool to admit that all you really wanted to do was “just be a Mom.” But that’s what I have done and it has been my greatest joy in life. I have a daughter, too, and she’s a creative genius and force of nature. And I married a guy who does my favorite thing in the world: he writes great love notes. This one popped up when I was treasure hunting in my special box today. We had been married exactly 5 weeks, I was undergoing testing for terrible allergies, and my guapo half Argentinean new groom wrote me these words:
My life has been rich and the journey becomes sweeter with age, as anybody over 50 understands, because we know each day is so precious. I am so happy I decided to go through that box today and even happier that the Path I always dreamed of found me.