Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Life is a wiggle

On a collection of Chinese fortune cookies, I saw a funny one: Life is not a struggle. It's a wiggle.

Again, I don't believe in fortune cookies or horoscopes, but that one did make me laugh.

It also made me think about a conversation that The Husband and I had -- and have had several times in various permutations. What really rules our life's fate? Destiny? Or decisions?

The latest conversation has revolved around a decision I made 20 years ago to get out of the classroom. At the time, it was the right decision for me. Then, fifteen years ago, my teaching certificate was up for renewal, and I made another decision: not to renew it.

Now, here I am, strongly considering going back into the classroom. So, did I waste 20 years? Or did it take me 20 years to become a stronger teacher? Or did I just take a really long, really convoluted detour?

The Husband is more than a bit of a fatalist. He grew up a country boy, and country folk tend to be very serene about their life's lot. Whatever will be will be, and no matter how you fight it, you can't really change where you're going to end up.

Uh, yeah. The Husband is saying a LOT of I-told-you-sos lately.

I, however, have a different philosophy in life -- well, at least until now. It's the little decisions that in effect make the big decisions for you. My decision to believe I was a flop at math (hey, how I was I to know I was dyscalculic?) and my disastrous experience with high school chemistry led me to another decision: don't change the major from education to pre-med, even though I was fascinated by all things medical.

Would I have been a terrific doctor or pharmacist or therapist? I'll never know. Would I have grown into a champion teacher had I stayed in the classroom? I'll never know that, either.

One thing getting out of the classroom did for me, though, was it gave me an education in real life. I wound up (by another freak small decision) working as an editor/reporter for a small chain of weekly newspapers, and the feature stories I covered gave me more insight into the human psyche and condition than any MFA program could have.

If I had stayed in the classroom, yes, I probably would have been just a decade from retiring with a pension (sob!) instead of looking for a job, any job with benefits. But would I have The Kiddo? Would I have four published novels?

Yanno, I don't think so. I like to think of life as a marble on one of those "trees" on a platter, the one that diverts all the au jus from the roasted beast? Wiggle the platter a hair that way, and the marble rolls along a branch that forks this way or that. Wiggle the platter the other way, and the marble sees a completely different side of the tree. And sometimes a sudden jerk knocks the marble from one side to the other without the benefit of gentle rolling at all.

Where will I be in 10 years? I don't have a clue. But I can tell you this -- I'm a wiggle away from a fantastic future.


Piedmont Writer said...

Yes you are just one wiggle away. You can't, I can't anyway, look back on what I should have done because if I had done it, I very seriously doubt I would be here, right now, at this very moment.

I could have gotten my teacher certificate as well and like you, ten years away from a pension. But I'm not. And you know what, I'm happy. I'm not stressed or crazed or any of the other things I could be like all the other teachers I know.

Matthew Rush said...

I can't answer all those questions - but I do know one thing: you're a great teacher! Comma splices begone!

Kelly Breakey said...

I believe you are right dear friend. It is about the ride and not where you are going. Who cares how you get there as long as you do?

Summer said...

That's my philosophy on life, too. And I would never want to change any of my paths, even the bad ones, because it terrifies me to think that I might not be where I am today. And where I am today is extraordinarily happy, even though conditions could always improve.

Guess we'll be wiggling along for a time, too.

Tawna Fenske said...

Terrific post!

I tend to share your attitude that things happen for a reason, so my husband's "if only" approach sometimes drives me batty. He can spend endless hours pondering what might have been if only he'd taken a different path in life.

Those kinds of thoughts really don't cross my mind much. Things happen just the way they're supposed to, lumps and all.


Jessica Lemmon said...

I was just having a conversation with a friend who admitted sometimes, she wished she could go back and make this or that decision a year earlier.

I told her that if she had, she'd sacrifice all she had now. Because, you can't get *here* without first being *there* - call it fate, call it life lessons, call it a prison sentence, but either way, you have to do your time past before living out your present.

I believe I'm right where I'm supposed to be.

And so, my friend, are you. :-)


wordsareforwriting said...

A great insight Cynthia.

Life is what you make it!

Lickety Splitter said...

We can have our lives all mapped out, but life will inevitably come along to change our course. Change will happen if we do nothing but stand in one spot. So, we may as wiggle with it.