Reflecting on My 20’s and My Silly Timeline

In four days, I turn thirty years old. It’s one of those significant milestones that make you reflect on your progress in life. So I went back to those goals I set for myself at twenty to see how the decade “measured up,” so to say:

  • Fall in love
  • Marry
  • Have kids
  • Adopt a child
  • Adopt a dog
  • Have a career
  • Own a house
  • Publish a novel
  • Visit Italy

I remember that I made a little timeline too. I had determined the proper timing between falling in love and getting married. I calculated when to start having children and when to adopt. I had it all figured out. How foolish I was.

Well, I have four days to check off the eight goals that I have not yet achieved. Yep. If you did not go back and counted the bulleted items, that means I have completed one of those goals. Here is my accomplishment:

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Some might say I failed. I wasn’t successful. But I’m not upset at all. I cannot believe how different I am from twenty-year-old me. I am so much wiser now, because now I know how little I know, how little I can control, and how little good it does to worry over the little things. I often find myself saying, “I know nothing.” (Then, I follow that with a cheesy grin as I add in a whisper, “John Snow.” Every time. It’s amazing I even have friends.) I used to have answers to life questions that I’ve since learned have no answer. In my twenties, I knew life wasn’t black or white, I understood the gray area. But now at the cusp of thirty, I’ve learned there is a wide spectrum of color when trying to understand life, truth, and people. Life is brighter, more interesting, and more confusing for it. I love it.

But I’d like to reflect on the goals of twenty-year-old me:

1. Fall in love

It’s true; I have never been in love. I’ve made excuses for it, but, to be honest, dating terrifies me. You may have seen many variations of the quote that says, “Sure, I talk about wanting a boyfriend, but what do you do with them? Do you feed them? How often? Will it need mucking out?” I don’t know the original author, but this quote resonates with me. I have repeated it to people, and they laugh. I say, “No, really. I’m not kidding. I have no idea what I’m doing. Like, how do you even get a boyfriend?” And they laugh again, a little less enthusiastically. I think I’m just trying to prolong a joke for more reaction, but I’m seriously lost here.

My last boyfriend was in 2003 (when I was a high school sophomore) and I never kissed him. We were both so shy. While I have been kissed, I don’t know how to find a decent man, not talk myself out of him, and let myself relax and enjoy his company. Not even in a conversation. I think it is largely my questionable self-esteem and tendency to over-think. But also, I have tried this questionable practice of online dating, which I loathe, and I’ve attracted completely unsuitable matches. My mother said I was too picky. But to explain how I was not would take too long for this post. Those disastrous dates were more a problem with my online profile. I didn’t know myself, and I didn’t know who I was looking for. Also, I’m a bit of a romantic and I could not shake the desire to fall in love in some cinematic meet cute. I’m super awkward, which seems to be a necessary part of a meet cute, so why couldn’t I fall in love that way? (I know, I know, because I live in reality and not in a 90s chick flick. What a shame.)

Anyways, I guess I figured that I should have this task done by the time I was 30. And it’s a little sad that I’ve lived this long and not allowed myself to be vulnerable enough to fall in love. I’m working on that. More later.

2. Marry

Uh, you really should fall in love before you get married. No matter what some well-meaning relatives say. (I am from a culture that believes a woman’s primary purpose is to marry and produce children. It’s not a foreign idea, but these people are VERY serious about making marriage and babies happen for me.)

3. Have kids 

I am so glad I have not had any children yet. I would still love to be a mom. However, in my early twenties, I was unsure of who I was. For the last six years, I taught high school English. I let that career consume me and did not balance it with my life at all. I would have either been a terrible mother or a terrible teacher. I only recently realized that I don’t know how to balance my life and priorities, and I’m working on that.

4. Adopt a child

This is still a fierce dream of mine. There are many children in foster homes that need a forever home, and I am still a woman who longs for a forever family. While I am not great at expressing my love and appreciation for those around me, I loved my students dearly. I worried over them and prayed for them. I felt such joy when they found success and/or happiness. I have wept when they suffered. (They would be shocked, considering how hard it was to even get me to give out hugs.) I turned my students into surrogate children, but they weren’t really mine. Every year, I struggled to say goodbye, usually avoiding it entirely. I know that my heart yearns to love and treasure a child forever. I hope one day I get to have the privilege of adopting a child into my family.

5. Adopt a dog (CHECK!)

Uh, I did this one. I even think my plan was to adopt a pug, and it you look closely at that picture earlier. The fawn one on the right is part pug. In fact, pug is the only breed that her vets have ever been certain of. Either way, she is my darling Sybil. The black curly-haired one is my devilish Addie. Sybil was adopted in 2013, when she was just a soft, fluffy puppy. Addie was adopted early this year as a two-year-old who had been neglected most of her life. Each is unique. Each gives me joy.

Because I suddenly started grad school part-time and am living at my grandma’s house in Ohio, they are not living with me. Addie is with my aunt. Sybil is with my parents. When I had moved home (with my parents) a couple of months ago, I could not bring both dogs due to their own kennel of canines. (Two of their dogs are seniors, one having been rescued from a severely abusive home. So they don’t always do well with new dogs.) Addie was welcomed by my aunt on her farm. She is probably so deliriously happy getting to chase geese and cats and romp about the farm with two bigger dogs. I’m worried she might not want to come home with me. Hopefully I will soon get a full-time job so I can afford my own place. I’ve even found two pet-friendly homes that would work for us. Fingers crossed that I find a job soon. I miss them.

6. Have a career

Well, I did have one, but, just recently, I decided to start over. I’m so glad I did. I loved teaching, but an epiphany made recognize and agree with long-ago words of wisdom from my parents: I did not know what else was out there. I can’t wait to see where life takes me.

7. Own a house

It’s hard to do that without money. But I am very blessed that I have always had a place to call home. That is so much more important.

8. Publish a novel

This. This is the only item that makes me disappointed in myself. I loved writing. I still love it now. I am disappointed that I put it on the back-burner and then turned off that burner. I let other priorities take over my dream of being a writer. I let insecurity tell me that it was no use anyway, that no one would publish what I had to say. And did I have anything to say, anyways? Pish posh. I’m going to write now. I am going to write here and I’m going to work on those story ideas I’ve had. It makes me happy. Why wouldn’t I do what makes me happy? And if no one reads what I write, oh well. At least I wrote it. After all, no one will ever read what I don’t even write.

9. Visit Italy

I’d still like to do this, but, even more so, I want to visit Scotland and Ireland. These are places that are in my blood. Also, I’ve read the first four books of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and I’m completely smitten with Scotland (and, yes, with Jamie Fraser). Today I just finished Finding Fraser, a novel by kc dyer, in which her character is a modern day woman who is so smitten with Jamie Fraser that she leaves America for Scotland and travels about the country seeking her own Jamie. What a delightfully fun read! Not to mention that her main character keeps a blog which drove me to kick myself for neglecting to post for so long, and I went to the library and wrote Thursday’s post. My posts are much wordier than Dyer’s main character. I apologize. Somewhat. Not really.

Ireland is a place my sister wants to visit and I had spoke of it longingly before. I think it’s the one country that we both want to visit. (She tends to favor the exotic locations like Australia and anywhere she can see lions. I favor the places with beautiful languages, rich literary histories, and delicious food.) But we both want to see Ireland. I think she is more interested in the pubs where I am intrigued by castles and landscapes, but no matter. We collaborated (which is a rarity for us) to start an Ireland fund. Each birthday and Christmas we gift the other person with $50 for our fund. We are up to a whopping $250. We started a year ago, and it should be only $200 but I somehow got confused and put in an extra $50. But it can’t hurt.

Really, I want to see more of the world. And I believe that one day I will.


 

So as I consider what I want for this decade, I’ve decided to leave out some of the previous goals. I’m not going to make certain things happen in my life. I’m not going to worry so much about the end results. As I’ve said in a previous post, when I try to control my destination, I limit myself. Besides, how creepy would it be if I entered each first date telling them my goal was to fall in love and marry. Uh, can’t the guy breathe a little? Can’t we just enjoy our food, each other’s company?

So I’m taking to heart my mother’s recent strange advice: “Take a lover.” (To be fair, she said this knowing that I’m too closed off, I’m too reserved. I’m too uptight. I take myself and life too seriously. This is not the advice she would give to my sister.)

My goals for the next decade:

  1. Say yes to life. (Thank you, Shonda Rhimes, for your inspirational words in Year of Yes. I recommend this book to anyone who is not loving life to its fullest. Are you happy? Do you have joy?)
  2. Give out love. (I don’t have to love the thing or person forever, but I’m going to give love to the world. Instead of waiting for love, I’m going to be love and I’m going to share love. Maybe I can start with learning how to initiate hugs without all the awkwardness? Maybe.)
  3. Follow what feels right. Follow what makes you happy. (Sometimes I follow what I think society expects or what I think should be the right, or rational, path. Usually that means that I’ve just taken the safest course in life.)
  4. Open your eyes. (I want to travel and I want to see the world. I think I will do that in this next decade, but I also just want to experience life firsthand. Have you seen how many people go to a concert and spend the whole time watching it through their smartphone as they record it. Experience the moment. Also, side note, I don’t know why so many people record fireworks. Put down your phone, breathe in the crisp night air and just enjoy the show. Who wants to watch videos of fireworks? Are you even going to watch it? Why?)
  5. Write. (I don’t have to publish a novel, but I do have to write. I love writing. I may not be faithful posting here, but I’m going to write more. Then, if that writing results in something worth publishing in book form, I will try to do that. But instead of being concerned with the end result, my goal is going to be regularly engaging in the process of writing.

We’ll see how I do, but I think these are more admirable goals because these encourage a more full life. I would be better off as a lover, wife, mother, and writer if I do these things. I might even make some of my goals for my 20’s happen in my 30’s.

How the Eclipse, Forgotten Keys, and Lori Schultz Changed the Course of My Life

A series of strange coincidences changed my life.

It began with a grumpy grandfather. I had driven over 550 miles from northern Virginia to their town of Hicksville, Ohio, to bring him and my endearing grandma back to Virginia for a visit. My aunt, knowing that unemployment left me with a flexible schedule, asked me to drive them back. I drove my little car up and drove them back the next day in their small SUV. The SUV was more comfortable for them; however, driving over 1100 miles in two days was not very comfortable for me.

During their visit, my grandpa became anxious to return home. He was bored. Ignore the fact that there was more entertainment being provided for him in Virginia, he was bored. He tried to pressure me into taking him home five days early, four days early, three, two, even one day early. He sulked and pouted. He made those around him miserable. But he was staying at my aunt’s house, so I suffered less and, therefore, I refused. I had plans. Regardless that Grandpa didn’t think those plans were more important than his needs, I was not giving in. You see, I am a doormat. It’s true. I’m not a sweet, happy-to-do-it doormat, but I will agree, put a smile on me face, and be grumpy about it later. I feel that I must do things to please people, to earn their acceptance or love, to repay their acts of kindness. Now, I love giving to people, but it’s not healthy when I feel that I MUST be giving. Then, there are many who are happy to take advantage and become expectant that I will give my time, energy, and resources to them.

I had said yes to driving them home, but I was not going to be guilted into giving up my plans. Those plans were important to me. I also realized I couldn’t repeat the two-day trip to Ohio and back. I broke into tears when I got home the first time. Not kidding. After eleven hours on the road (two of which were spent at numerous rest stops), I had dropped off my grandparents at my aunt’s home and driven the last ten minutes to my parents’ home. I walked in the door, into the kitchen. I don’t even know what my parents said, but I demanded I just needed a minute. Tears began to well as I darted up to my room. I sobbed, breathed, sobbed, breathed. It was exhaustion (mingled with frustration and expired patience). So I knew I would need a few days to recover from the trip taking them home, and I thought it would be nice to visit my paternal grandparents. They are just a short hour and a half from Hicksville, and they are on the side closer back to Virginia.

But I couldn’t call them. I couldn’t let them know I was coming. What if Grandpa guilted someone else into taking him home early? Then that person would drive them up in their SUV and bring back my car. The likelihood was high. My grandpa was making life difficult at my aunt’s house. So I didn’t call my paternal grandparents. If I arrived, it would be a surprise.

So I drove them home on Tuesday, August 22, the day after the eclipse. I couldn’t drive them home on Monday, after all. I was determined to go to the library’s event, offering free eclipse glasses. Never mind that the library line was ridiculous, so Mom and I ended up watching the eclipse in beach chairs in her front yard while drinking expensive cider. She had a pair of solar eclipse glasses that we took turns sharing. Let me just say, that was a wonderful day. So instead of going back to Ohio on Monday, I stayed to watch the eclipse. Without that eclipse, my life would not have changed.

At 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, I met my grandparents at my aunt’s house. My uncle and I loaded the SUV, and, once we herded my grandparents into their seats, I took off. The trip was uneventful. Grandpa got chattier as we got closer to his home. I, in turn, became more annoyed. Every ten miles, my grandpa pointed out the mile marker and bellowed out the miles remaining until the next state: “60 miles until Ohio… 50 miles until Ohio… 40 miles until Ohio…” I believe I’m the most patient person in my family… or maybe not

The closer we got to their house, the more I plotted my escape. I would unload their items into the house, load my items into my car, and drive immediately to my other grandparents’ house. When we were less than 30 minutes away, I was replaying the plan in my head when horror hit me. But I couldn’t have, could I? I thought my packing through step by step. I mentally rummaged through my bags. No need to panic. I couldn’t be that stupid, right? I replayed it through again. It was no use. I had done it. Just to be sure, I asked my grandmother, sitting behind me, to pass me my purse. Without taking my eyes off the road, I sifted through the items. My fingers searching for the jagged metal. No luck.

Quickly explaining the situation to my grandparents… multiple times due to their poor hearing… I picked up my phone, sighed, and called my mother.

“Before I ask you to do something, please don’t judge me.”

“Okay…? What is it?” My mother responded cautiously.

“Could you go up to my room, go into my nightstand and get my car key?”

“What!?”

“Then, can you mail me my key?”

Yep, people. I was in Ohio with my car while my keys were safely in my nightstand in Virginia.

I was so mad at myself. I was also anxious. I was planning to escape. Now, please understand that my Grandma Connie is the most compassionate, giving, loving, generous soul I have ever known. I would take her anywhere with me. I would do anything for her. I adore and love her. I wasn’t trying to escape her. I was trying to escape Hicksville, Grandpa, and the noise created by hard-of-hearing elders who refuse to admit they cannot hear. (I love Grandpa too; but I was still very much mad at him for his behavior and his jolliness of being farther and farther away from Virginia.)

IMG_2274Anyways, back to my predicament. I was trapped in Hicksville now. Once we arrived and unloaded, I took off for a walk. The town is half a mile from their house. I went in search of a bar, of alcohol, of an alternative escape. Meanwhile, I called my dear friend Jerilyn to lament my fate. Just talking to her, I felt more optimistic and relaxed. I walked around the block a few times before our conversation ended. I crossed the street to the one bar – a brewery – in town. It was closed.

I ended up wandering around some more. I visited the library and learned about events for my grandma to attend, and I ordered a sub sandwich from a pizza shop. Then I headed back to the house. During my outing, I had been blessed with a solution from my mother. She and my father had overnighted my key. Apparently, Dad questioned paying an exorbitant fee to get the key by noon the next day. Mom told him to do it, just do it. I was staying at her parents’ house and she knew how drained I was. I suppose that, when I talk about alcohol, something must be terribly wrong. I’m typically the one who volunteers to be D.D. when family and friends want to go out for a drink. So because I forgot my key, I didn’t go to my other grandparents that night. But because my beautifully kind parents overnight expressed my key, I would be in Bowling Green, Ohio, early afternoon the next day. Without those additional two events, my life would not have changed.

So it was that on Wednesday, August 23, 2017, I received my key right before noon, andI drove to Bowling Green State University, my alma mater. I had deduced -correctly- that my Grandma Karen would not be home at this time of day. So instead, I drove to campus. I wanted a new BGSU shirt. I wanted to walk where once I questioned who I’d be and what I’d do with my life. I figured I would surprise my aunt on campus.

Lori Schultz is a woman who never seems to rest. She has a deep love for her work on campus as an advisor and always seems to be “adopting” a student or friend. She is a mother to her four children and she mothers anyone else who seems to need it. I have no idea where she gets her energy too. When she is not working, she is at university events, sporting events, friends’ parties, local taverns. She is always on the move, always busy, and always willing to help.

She was no different that Wednesday. Lori, after hugging me, proclaimed that she had been using me as an example of someone changing careers all summer. I had called her a couple of months ago inquiring about returning and if she knew about the MBA program. Her eyes widened and her smile grew bigger, “You should get your MBA. Do you want to do it? The first class is tonight” I smiled. How nice of her to remember. I didn’t think her too serious. I should have known better. Within a few minutes of surprising her, I was introduced to her colleague who was starting the MBA program. Lori repeated her idea. Uh? Say what? I thought. I couldn’t do that. Could I? Nah…. You cannot just decide to become a grad student and start class in one day. That’s ridiculous.

So now, I’m a grad student for the professional MBA at BGSU.

Lori, an advisor for the College of Technology, walked me over to the College of Business. I met with the administrative assistant for BGSU’s Graduate and Executive Programs in Business. Her shocked face matched my feelings. Class had technically begun Monday, but a change in instructors had led to that class being cancelled. If it hadn’t been cancelled, I’d have already been behind. Plus, since I had completed my undergraduate studies at BGSU the application was faster. As she processed the idea, she started to make it happen. She was providing me with materials, talking about the application process, and preparing to contact the instructors to make sure they understood that I did not have access to the online material yet. I wasn’t even sure what to think. I can’t do this, can I? But another bossy voice thought, Why not? What else are you doing right now? But still the insecure voice in my head argued, I can’t just decide to start grad school and go to class tonight. People just don’t do that. It’s not how things are done.

Luckily, I stopped having my internal debate long enough to pause the lovely woman who was dropping everything to help me. “I need to speak with my parents first about this.” I awkwardly explained that I had a dog and all my stuff in Virginia and I would need to make arrangements. I would need to have my parents’ support. She was very understanding. Then, she introduced me to the director of the program.

The director was just as surprised and just as welcoming. He also quickly determined this was possible. After a brief discussion, during which he was assured that I would attend class that night, he reasoned that it was fate. He contemplated the strange situation and the series of happenstances that aligned to make it possible for me to join the program. He remarked on the eclipse. The eclipse was a sign. As a former teacher, I can testify how teachers and administrators connect the rise of strange behaviors of children to new moons. I suppose the added strangeness and rareness of the eclipse seemed to correlate to my situation. If class had been held Monday, if I hadn’t had come to the building at the time I did, if the program had been filled, if so much hadn’t been perfectly so, it would not have been possible.

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Still, I was struggling with the decision. I was interested, but I didn’t allow myself to say yes. All the doubts were stampeding through my mind. My youngest cousin can testify to that. She was with my aunt that day. After leaving the director’s office, Lori suggested that Meredith come with me to surprise Grandma. (Grandma, however, still wasn’t home.) Meredith probably feared for her life as I drove around town, vocalizing my doubts. I had texted my mom as we had walked to my car on campus, and, when she responded, she was encouraging. I gave her a call and she said it was possible. I asked what Dad would think and what she said was true: Dad would be happy knowing I was doing something that would make me happy.

In less than four hours, I had gone from wandering around BGSU contemplating life to attending my first class in the professional MBA program.

After class – which I must say was wonderful -, I drove to my grandparents’ house to surprise them with a visit move. They might think I’m crazy and impulsive now, but they have graciously allowed me to move in with them. The next day, I submitted my official application for the program. The following Thursday, as I was driving home to get my clothes, I received my official acceptance letter. (In fact, I stopped at a Panera to use their WiFi to complete steps of the admission process.)

I am a graduate student in the professional MBA program at BGSU, a program that holds classes from 6-9 twice a week. A program that allows professionals to work while returning to school. Right now, I’m the only unemployed student in the program. So now, my task is to find a full-time job. One that allows me to build experience, to apply that experience to class discussions, to afford my own apartment, and -most importantly- to allow me to live with both my dogs once again.

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But let me just sit in bewilderment of how my life went from directionless to purposeful. Last time I wrote, I explained how I was letting go of being in control. Former me would have missed this opportunity because it wasn’t in some predetermined life plan nor decided with a detailed pros-and-cons list. Former me would have let the insecure voice win. Former me would have said no. I am so glad I didn’t listen to her, and I’m so glad I drove my stubborn grandpa home and forgot my key in Virginia.

So, in the immortal words of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, “This is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down.”