June 4, 2015

Four Life-Altering Choices

I've been feeling a bit of bloggy nostalgia since my five year anniversary passed at the end of April.

While many of my early posts kind of suck, there are some that I am very proud of, but that most of you probably never read. Either because I was ignorant of how to pimp myself, or because you hadn't discovered me yet (which I suppose kind of go together).

So I'm thinking while my family is in this place of flux due to the end of the school year, coupled with my husband being away from home in a rehab facility, I would dig up some gems, edit and republish.

I first wrote this post back on May 6, 2011.
It's about those decisions we make in life that change our lives in some way.

This is MY poem. Mr. Frost wrote it for me. OK, maybe not only for me, but I feel a great affinity for it. This poem comes to mind so often. My BFF printed it up, framed it and gave it to me as a gift. It hangs on my bedroom wall, above my nightstand. It is profound and true and inspiring to me, even though it's really pretty simple.

I first read "The Road Not Taken" in high school for English class and liked it even as a dumb kid, before I had any idea the different roads stretched out before me. But it spoke to me even then, as if I knew my life wouldn't be typical.  Maybe I did know. What is "typical", anyway? Perhaps that's a subject for another post....

Do you ever think about the pivotal events in your life? The ones where if you had made another choice than the one you did -- had chosen the other road -- how different might your life be today? I can easily point to 4 - so far.

Four Life-Altering Choices

The first was when I was gearing up to move from my home with my dad here in Washington state to live with my mom in Lake Tahoe, California. Per my parents' divorce agreement, my dad was to relinquish custody of me to my mother at age 12, whom I would live with for the remainder of my childhood. In the waning days of my 6th grade school year, however, my father came to me and asked if I wanted to stay with him, that if I did, he would contact a lawyer and see if we could make that happen. Hence, my very first big decision; the first "fork in the road" of my life.

My father's concern was that I already had a good and stable life with him. But I knew that my mom was ready and waiting. She was renting a little house with a bedroom for me and was in school. My strong sense of fairness told me that it was her turn. She had been waiting patiently, doing everything she was supposed to do, even from a distance, and I had to go.

Telling my dad that I still wanted to move was hard. I know it disappointed him, and looking back on it now (as a parent myself), I think putting me on that plane to not live with him anymore, when I was only 12 years old, broke his heart. But in turn, I knew not going to live with my mother would have broken her heart. So I moved to Lake Tahoe. I often wonder what might have happened to me if I had stayed.

The second "fork" came when I was 16 years old and got pregnant. Yes, I became a teen pregnancy statistic. I'm not proud. It is what it is.

I was 16 and knocked-up, and needed to decide if I was going to have and keep the baby, have and give up the baby or terminate the pregnancy. I had one friend telling me abortion is wrong and one telling me it was the only logical thing to do, like a little angel and devil sitting on my shoulders. My boyfriend and his mother were romanticising the whole thing. My mother was utterly appalled that I had made the same mistake she had and swore if I carried to term the baby and I would not be living with her. I didn't tell my father out of fear of his reaction, even though my mother threatened to ship me back to him. I also didn't tell another good friend of mine who had moved away, because I was afraid she'd be terribly disappointed in me.

I would have loved to have a baby and become a mommy. I already knew I wanted that for my life. But the practical side of me won over the romantic side.  I knew it wasn't a good idea. I also knew that I didn't have it in me to go the adoption route. I consider myself to be a pretty strong person, but giving my very own baby away to be raised by someone else....? No. There's no way. It might have broken me. So it was all or nothing. Not something I often feel; I'm really not an all or nothing kind of gal. But in this case I was, and I decided to terminate.

Contrary to popular opinion, having an abortion is not taking the easy way out. Yes, you get out of having a child to take care of, but it scars and haunts you. It becomes a part of your soul. You will forever wonder...boy or girl?...what would it look like?...what would I have named it?...would we have been OK or would it have been miserable? I think the baby would have been born in September and once in a while, sometime in September, I count and think about how old the child would be. I wonder if the little soul that would have been born to me understood my choice. I wonder if God understands. And I can't imagine how differently the roads of my life would have sprawled out before me if I had made a different choice.

The third fork in the road didn't feel like a huge decision at the time, but hindsight being 20/20 (Ha!), I now see that it ended up being the thing that brought about the rest of my life as I know it. I became legally blind in the year after graduating high school and I needed help with adapting to it.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), there weren't many services available to me where I lived (still Lake Tahoe), namely mobility training with a white cane, braille and daily living skills. There was, however, a school called the Orientation Center for the Blind down in the Bay Area. It is a live-in facility where you spend several months focused on learning how to do everything without the use of your eyes, and my rehab counselor suggested I go there. I don't even remember the process I went through in making a decision, but I decided to go.

OCB afforded me the opportunity to leave home. It was where I met my future husband and two of the best friends we've ever had, who are like family to Mark and I. We started our life together in a little apartment just blocks away, and ended up staying in the Bay Area for a total of 9 years. We went to school, Mark got a transplant and regained good sight, we worked, got married and had our first baby, all while living there.

The fourth big choice we made (not just I anymore) was to relocate to Washington state. We knew we wanted out of the rat race of the Bay Area, and actually, out of California entirely, mostly because of the cost of living. We had no hope that we'd ever be able to buy a house there. We also had a little girl who would be going to school soon and we weren't hearing very good things about the public schools. California is an amazing state, but it's too big for its britches and just...overwhelming, I guess. Leaving it, though, meant being further away from a lot of family we love, so it was a very difficult choice.

We settled on coming (back for me) to Western Washington. This area has everything we figured we needed, such as good medical care, some family, lower cost of living, very family-friendly and not too terribly far away from California.

It was a little difficult at first because Mark ended up not working for the first 3 years, which was disappointing for him. Also, our relationships with my family didn't go very well for awhile. But we soon learned that there are a lot of good people here and we have been fortunate to become friends with several of them. We had not managed to make any friends in the Bay Area, so this was huge.  There, it was just the 3 of us, but here it is much more. We proceeded to have another child, something I wanted so badly...AND we bought a house.

Most recently, life has changed a great deal due to Mark's health problems, but none of that is due to any decisions made on our parts. Just not a whole lot of control where that's concerned.

More will unfold, of course. We can't know beforehand what roads and their forks lie ahead of us. I seem to choose the ones "less traveled by" and that has indeed "made all the difference". I can't imagine my life any other way than it is....

Well, that's not true. Of course I can imagine other circumstances; definitely easier ones. But I am who I am because of my circumstances, and I think who I am is alright. I often feel held back by our situation, but at the end of the day I'm proud of this little life I and we have forged.

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