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When I Was Young Meme

Blogging is old enough now to have grown some traditions. One of them, that mostly irritates me, is memes because they usually take time but not much thought without revealing anything useful or entertaining. But now and again…

Claude of Blogging in Paris has tagged me for a When I Was Young… meme that instructs participants to list five things in life they never thought – at age 25 - they would become. I've added the thought, "or would happen".

This one is interesting, especially for elders, because it requires us to compare our young selves to our old selves, and has the potential for surprises – if not for readers, for ourselves.

  1. At 25, I had been married for a year and expected it to last a lifetime. No divorce, like my parents, for me. When I initiated divorce after six years, I shocked myself, but it hadn’t been like any marriage I imagined and I was miserable – all day, every day. I believed the only way to save my soul was to go my own way.

    After a couple of years of healing, I thought I would eventually marry again; that was how girls were raised to think in the 1950s. But if you don’t count four years living with a lovely man named Barry, I didn’t marry again. In time, I came to see that I’m not much cut out for it. I like to be alone too much and unfortunately, with the exception of Barry, I’m attracted to men more cerebral than practical which means I always paid the bills, fixed the toilet, did the laundry, hung the pictures, took out the trash and every other bit of the minutiae daily living requires.

    So I decided that if I had to do it all myself, I’d rather do half as much. It saves a lot of anger and it suits my sometimes contrarian nature to live differently from the world I was raised in where a woman was considered a failure if she didn’t marry - which, fortunately, no longer applies.

  2. These days, no self-respecting kid – of either gender – is allowed to grow up without considering what kind of career s/he will choose. In my day, girls were not encouraged to think of much more than wife and motherhood except for nurse and teacher, and I never got beyond the (futile) dream of being a ballerina and, sometimes, a writer (see below). So unlike today's young people, I had no career goal.

    I worked at various office jobs in my early twenties until I began producing radio programs, then television and, in my fifties, websites. It was all accidental and I loved all of it. It took me to parts of the U.S. and the world I would never have visited otherwise and was always fascinating. None of it was on my radar at 25.

  3. In between imagining myself dancing Coppelia and the Sugar Plum Fairy with the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo, I thought I’d like to be a writer, to tell stories. Then, in high school, when I’d written a fantasy for class about my home having a funny personality, the teacher gave me the only D I ever received. “Houses don’t have personalities,” she wrote on my paper and I, interpreting it as a negative judgment on my writing rather than the cramped thinking of an unimaginative teacher, gave up the idea of being a writer. It was a rough time in my life, I was only 15 and I didn't yet have the self-confidence to dismiss a grownup's spiritless assessment.

    Beyond writing letters, I mostly forgot about that dream until my television years when producing required me to write a lot of what people said on the air. Although no one every complained about my scripts or threw them back in my face, that teacher was always whispering in my ear that I wasn’t any good at it.

    I’m into my fourth year now, writing every day for Time Goes By and am as happy doing it as I was at the best jobs I had. I'm asked to write for professional publications too and that's enough for me to give that dream killer of a teacher a "so there" raspberry from half a century in the future.

  4. When I was five years old growing up in Portland, Oregon, I began dreaming of living in New York City – the Metropolis of Superman, the Big Apple, the most exciting, sophisticated city in America, the place where everything wonderful happened.

    The idea never left me, but even when a friend who had grown up in New York invited me to go with her when she was returning to her home town (we were about 21 or 22), I backed off, afraid I couldn’t make it in a place so big, so crowded, so different from what I knew. I thought then I'd be lucky to ever visit, but I'd certainly never live there.

    Then life pushed me to New York when my husband got a job there in 1968, and it was every good thing I had expected. I loved it immediately and for 38 years, I considered myself a New Yorker. It was MY city. I knew every nook and cranny of Greenwich Village, if not the whole town, looked up the history of every street and building, and felt connected to it as though I’d been born there. Home. I’d be there still but for the next item.

  5. Like many children, I often heard, “Not until you’re older,” “When you grow up” and “You’ll understand when you’re an adult.” I took this to mean that I’d get smarter as years went by and more capable, and in the world I lived in then, that would make me a more valuable person - at least in the workplace.

    Even when I got to be 40 and then 50 and bit beyond, it didn’t occur to me that I would become less employable due to my age. I thought I’d be seen as experienced, knowledgeable and, therefore, sought after.

    So it was a shock on two occasions, after being laid off in cutbacks, that my young colleagues found new jobs in less than half the time I did. Not to belittle them, they are smart people, but so am I and I have a lot more experience. Sometimes, in looking for work, the discrimination was obvious, face to face in interviews. Nothing you could prove in court, but anyone who has been there knows what I’m talking about.

    My mother and my great aunt Edith both worked until they were 70 and stopped then from choice, not because they couldn’t do the work or were fired for age. I expected to follow in their footsteps and am angry still, when I think about it, that I was forced out of the workplace. When I was 25, no one could have convinced me that anyone wouldn't be able to work in their chosen field until they wanted to stop.

    I'm not going to tag anyone for this meme, but if you take it up, do come back here and give us a link to yours. For readers who don't keep a blog, you're welcome to use the comment section here for the When I Was Young meme. There's no limit on length, you know.

    [At The Elder Storytelling Place today, David Wolfe tells how he he thwarted his remarkably mean siblings in It's a Wonder Some of us Survive Childhood.]


Ronni, I once again can relate to you so very deeply.

At 25 I was married with 3 children. My husband and I were the American Dream come true. A young couple goes into business and it becomes one of the largest of its type in the South. The building industry was booming.

I did the bookkeeping and made all financial decisions. My desk in the beginning was the kitchen table. I was holding one baby, one crawling on the floor and pregnant with another. I was happy. Our business grew so rapidly and provided everything that our parents never had. Homes, cars, trips, all the things we call luxuries, you name it.

Then 20 years down the road it was all over. Recession a husband that I no longer knew. Our continual life path and desires were totally different. 7 years later I had my youngest daughter. So to save my life and to make a continued home for my children and to be able to educate them I struck out on my own.

Near bankruptcy took me from one of the finest homes to a 100 year old farmhouse and farm in the middle of nowhere. It saved me.

I renovated the home which was the beginning of me creating a few more. I gardened, raised animals and lived a simple and healthy life. I am more at peace at this time of my life then any other.

Quite a journey with many stories along the way. But at 25, I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined my life at this moment.

Good answers!!!!

I got tagged on this by Xtreme English and wrote about it on my blog.

Thank you for sharing. I was moved by Claude's post too but am not going to take on this meme myself - even though I'll read what others have to say with great interest.

What a wonderful subject to contemplate. I will definitely get back to you after I've written my answer.

I so enjoyed reading your When I Was Young… meme Ronnie! And you have inspired me to write my own, which I share below:


1. When I was young, I thought I would follow in the footsteps of almost all women in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and become first and foremost a “wife and mother”. I thought that it was the natural thing to do to become a woman dependent upon a man for financial security, to forego a career path and focus on taking care of the home, the husband and the kids. But after two failed marriages and reaching the age of 46, I found myself not only childless, but single again. My experiences taught me that I could not depend on a husband to provide security, and the only one I could truly depend on was “me, myself, and I”. And I have no plans to marry again. Little did I know when I was young that I would end up childless and single, and content to be so. I didn’t realize when I was young that I can be successfully independent and like it.

2. When I was young I thought I had no need for college and a degree, and that as long as I learned to take shorthand and type, I could always find work as a secretary if I needed to. After all, I would be married and have kids and be cared for, right? (so naïve!) So I majored in business in high school and took no college prep courses. Sure enough I found a job as a stenographer straight out of high school, and in those days women were pretty much limited to secretarial work in the business world. But as time passed and I became indispensible to my male bosses in making them look good (I was a great secretary), I realized that I could do better. As it happened, this was in the late 1970’s and traditionally “male” career paths were beginning to open up for women, so I made the leap of faith and applied for U.S. Customs Inspector and to my surprise, was accepted. When I was young, I never dreamed I would become a law enforcement officer, successfully attend the Federal Law Enforcement Academy (even becoming a temporary instructor for a time), learn how to shoot a revolver and a shotgun and become a “Sharpshooter”, carry a gun on the job and work the Mexican Border. This career path led to even more success in trade intelligence and analytical work for U.S. Customs and ending a successful career in Washington D.C. with full retirement benefits at age 55.

3. When I was young and living in Sweden, engaged to a Swedish man and blindly “in love”, I didn’t realize one could be so hurt by being “dumped” for another woman, and recover. I had fallen in love with not only a Swede, but with Sweden itself, learning the language and loving the culture of this Scandinavian gem. When forced to return to the ugly concrete jungle of Los Angeles after the demise of my relationship, I was devastated in heart and soul, and the dashing to the rocks of all my “dreams”. I thought I would never recover and regain a sense of happiness. But the human spirit is resilient and we somehow pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, and go on—because we have to. If anything, the Sweden experience gave me a streak of independence and strength in knowing that whatever the circumstances, I could always rely on myself to take care of me, and I have. I also learned to appreciate and be grateful for the love of my family and friends and the opportunities, beautiful nature and history in my own country, the United States.

4. When I was young, I thought you had to live in a certain place in a certain way to be “normal” and be “happy”. Little did I know that contentment and happiness has less to do with where you live or how “normal” you think your life is, but rather - happiness is a state of mind, and you can be content and happy wherever you happen to find yourself living, and striving to be “normal” is stupid – there is no such thing as “normal”.

5. When I was young I used to worry and fret about everything under the sun, focusing too much on loss and what I did not have, thinking that “someone” would come into my life and make everything if not “perfect”, at least a lot better. Now I realize that our negative thoughts and worries are our own worst enemies, that we are responsible for our own happiness. I learned that with age and experience comes the wisdom of the mind and the importance of controlling our negative thoughts….and if you really put your mind to it, you can achieve just about anything you really want to do. When I was young, I never thought I would become so wise.

Ronni: I spent 3 days last week in NYC.......my son was married at city hall in Manhattan....we had lunch at a tavern nearby & a lovely evening, intimate dinner & drinks in Brooklyn's Cobble Hill section. Loved every minute & became tearful to think I had to leave......the days were sunny, warmish for January & we spent those 3 wonderful days with our 3 great kids & grandchildren.....the Big Apple is a magical place.....at least you have fond memories. Loved the meme. Dee

There is so much depth in these responses. I am impressed again by the resilience of the human spirit. People who don't give up in the face of difficulties are true heroes.

Hi Ronni,
I did mine in brief!


Thanks for sharing this with us Ronni, I really felt it was a good meme for elders. And it's so true that we were born in a world where women were expected to marry, have children period!
Actually, thinking it over, I remembered that when in my last year of highschool, our philosophy teacher asked a classfull of 42 girls (an allgirl school) what they were planning for the future, and all but 5, including brilliant students, said they were planning on marriage and children.

Yeah, I got a D in a creative writing class in high school, because it was at 7 in the morning and I couldn't wake up for it. I thought I had been dropped from the class like I was supposed to be but the teacher never followed through. Pissed me off - only D I got ever.

I still graduated high enough for a full ride scholarship, though. ;^)

Well, you're certainly an articulate and entertaining writer now, Ronni! Kay D tagged me with the meme, and I did a much shorter version. Seems like that's the story of my life at the moment, no shortage of things to write about, or the will to do so, but an extreme shortage of time. I'm grateful for the day gig I have, but being project manager for a group of creative people doesn't leave me enough daylight to savor the deliciousness of diving into the flow of my own words to completion.

I must admit, I was tempted to tag you, but figured you wouldn't have the time to participate. I did, however, tag some of our mutual friends with this meme, and am looking forward to their responses. I even stole Kay's pun on the issue: "In the meme time..." LOL!

I think this is a reasonable and thought-provoking meme (which is the def. of a meme, I learned) and it invites those of us who are double 25 and more to self-reflect from new perspectives. I read on Copyblogger that Leonardo da Vinci always viewed his subjects from three different perspectives. There's a lesson in that, and this meme seems to parallel his good sense in doing so. BTW, Copyblogger wrote an exceptionally brilliant post today--I urge y'all to check it out.

Item 3 pretty much stopped me cold by leading me into memories of my own. How hard it is for a good teacher to inspire a child. How easy it is for a bad teacher to wound a child.

Your high school teacher was the spiritual heir of Dickens' Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times, who says to his young charges:

'You are to be in all things regulated and governed,' said [Gradgrind], 'by fact. We hope to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of commissioners of fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing but fact. You must discard the word Fancy altogether. You have nothing to do with it...'

Your Item 3 spoke to me, too. If teachers only knew the impact they can have. In 1st grade, our art teacher informed me that one could not use numerals and geometric figures in art work!! As you say, she was lacking in imagination.

Teachers are probably one of, if not THE ONE to make the most positive or negative impressions on us when we're young. In my school years there were those who gave me negative feed back, but I'm such an incureable optimist that I only remembered the positive ones. In the seventh grade I heard the school secretary say to the principle, "there goes that Hartman girl, she certainly knows where shes going." Never forgot that one and took great confidence through the years remembering it. God bless the encouragers!!!!

A thought provoking meme, as a friend would say "how unuuuuusual! I've put my quick picks up this morning on my blog.


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