And big ones too-life is full of them. We make mistakes and the repercussions ripple on like the stone thrown in the lake; sometimes for years and sometimes affecting lots of other people. We make choices and follow paths, and make more choices and follow more paths. Trajectories in our lives are mirages of our own inventing. We feel regret and disillusionment with ourselves; we feel like losers. Things seem like they are bad and getting worse. And in the end, here is the truth: none of it matters.
Easy words to say. So I’ll say them again: none of it matters. When we’re young and life stretches endlessly before us and the paths are a confusing jumbled maze, we follow one or the other and see where it leads. Doors swing open or clang shut in our faces; and after a hurtful period, we dust ourselves off and start a new direction, lesson learned. As we age and go through life’s stages, we tend to hang our hats on stuff…look where I came from, look where I am, look where I’m headed. Smoke and mirrors. It doesn’t matter how old you are, the doors still open and close and you still choose what to do next.
What really matters is that you are living your life to its fullest potential. That you do not allow others to push, guilt or humiliate you into doing something that is wrong for you. That you do not buy into a set idea (who sets that anyway??) of success. That you do not continue on the same path if it is going to hurt you even more. In the end, at the end, you and only you can look back and hopefully say: what a ride.
Maybe it’s the fact of being a child of holocaust survivors and refugees, but I do not take anything for granted: not my money, not my friendships and relationships, not my health. I have been so fortunate to this point, even when I have struggled, that I can only be grateful, thankful and even a teeny bit proud. I have been called callous, aloof, brave, strong, even recently, a rock star. I love that! It does not matter what others think of me, only what I think of myself (although the “rock star” comment may be an exception to that statement :)). I believe myself to be smart, kind, generous and thoughtful; and a bit of a cockeyed-optimist, to quote a song from the show South Pacific. Lots of choices over my life have taught me how to be this way. Adversity is the best teacher; failure comes in a close second. Attitudes that come from a deep place inside and say, “Well, that didn’t work. What am I going to do now?” save us and open up the new doors.
What you do with your life, as far as a career, is not all of who you are. I am a teacher- and I love it and do not see myself doing anything else for the next ten years. It’s a HUGE part of me. But, I am so much more. Of course, wife and mother and daughter and sister and auntie; but as far as what else I love to do: writing, photography, travel, cooking, technology…just a few of the other things that define me in big ways. My career pays the bills, there is no doubt about that. And I depend on it to do so. But my bills are of my own creation and I can change them at any time by changing what I do and how and where I do it. I’m fortunate in that my career path, with minor side trips of my own design, has been steady. Not all people are that lucky and some have to change gears even though they thought they were all set. Our current economy and policies have done a lot of damage to good people who are just trying to follow their dreams. And yet, to those people, I say again- do what you can to make things work or have a go at some new path. Not easy to do, and lots of raw emotions to deal with, but honestly what choice do they have? The serenity prayer reminds us to change what we can and accept what we can’t.
People choose the wrong partners, the wrong jobs, the wrong cars, the wrong homes, all the time. Only when the wrongness becomes obvious (and this can take years) does the person go: Oh, shit. Once that little ah-ha moment occurs, it’s up to each of us to figure out how to right ourselves. Sometimes, like a car trying to get up a snowy hill (ahem), we have to put ourselves in reverse, back up a bit, have a look around and go a different way. Sometimes we have to call for help (ahem, again), or wait a while or turn completely around and find a completely different route. I am still talking about life, but that analogy based on a recent occurrence in my own, seems pretty perfect.
When things look bad, remember Winston Churchill’s famous quote: “If you are going through hell, keep going.” He also said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Wise man!