Elder Writers
Of Age, Fat and the Speed of Time

A Question Only Elders Can Answer

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Now Steven of Projections has joined the Quarterstaff Revolution and what a fine staff he has.]

category_bug_journal2.gif Apparently, this is question week on Time Goes By because yesterday I asked about writing and today, I have another for you. First, some background.

Somewhere about sixth or seventh grade, teachers began talking to us about having a goal in life, planning for a career, deciding what we wanted to be when we grew up and from that point forward, it became a regular topic of classroom discussion.

Although girls were nominally included in these exercises, teachers were not serious in our regard. “Wife and mother” was an acceptable answer and most girls of my era delivered on that expectation both in class and soon after high school graduation. It was the 1950s; things were different then.

These lessons were an annoyance for me because I couldn’t tell the truth. I wanted to be a writer and I thought about it a lot in private hours at home, picturing myself someday pounding away at my typewriter in a room surrounded by books – my own private library. But girls didn’t have such ambitions where I came from and I also had massive doubts about my ability. So I never told anyone, not even my best friend. It was my not-so-little secret dream.

Cut to awhile later, my junior year in high school. I don’t remember the exact writing assignment we were given in English class, but I have no doubt my essay was on topic – I was such a goody two-shoes in those days. (I've written about this seminal event before, so if you know it, you can skip to the last three or four paragraphs.)

The story I turned in speculated that houses take on the feelings of people who had lived in them. My mother had rented a small house in the south end of Sausalito that turned out to have a lot of funny, little things wrong with it. When the toilet was flushed, a loud groan surged forth from deep in the pipes. It didn’t stop unless you ran to the kitchen and turned on the water in the sink.

The latch on the back door always clicked shut as it should. But the door never failed to have come open next time you walked by. And so on, you get the idea. My conclusion was that people who had lived there before must have had a lot of jolly times in the house because it played so many tricks on us. I remember being quite pleased with myself, thinking it was the best story I’d ever written particularly because it was an original idea I’d never heard before.

Some days later, our papers were returned with our grades. I “knew” mine would be an A – it always was – and I still remember being stunned, feeling the blood rush out of my head when I saw the D.

The teacher had appended a note to the grade in red ink, something about the story having no basis in fact and “Houses do not have personalities.”

Although I had been struggling alone for a long time trying to figure out how one went about becoming a writer, it didn’t matter anymore. My dream died that day in English class. I believed then that teachers knew what they were talking about and clearly I could not be a writer with such wrong-headed ideas.

Which left me with no goal.

I floundered around in office jobs for awhile after finishing school, then became a radio show producer and, before long, a television producer. They were interesting jobs. I traveled the world, worked with kings and queens and movie stars and heads of state. I was paid to do what I like – find out everything there is to know about Katharine Hepburn for a primetime interview, for example, and about hate crimes or hurricanes or the Unabomber or anything else that came up for documentaries, and fashion it all into video stories.

I wrote for all those shows, but it was more of a group effort than I’d had in mind as a kid. Later, I got closer to my childhood dream when I left television for cbsnews.com when the internet was new and we were still inventing it; I did more individual writing than in television.

Now, half a century after that fateful day in English class, I tap out stories on my laptop in a room surrounded by books – my own private library - for this blog and occasionally for the Wall Street Journal and some other publications. (Take THAT, Miss English Teacher Dream Killer or whatever your name was.)

So for a kid who had no goal, life turned out to be a whole lot more interesting than I had expected. I worked at what came along, drifting with whatever winds of chance and serendipity allowed me to make a living. It was mostly surprises, one after another, and nothing I could have predicted.

So the question today, which no one can answer until they are old, is: has your life turn out the way you expected?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dorothy explains how she has overcome regrets in Memories of My Mom.]


Comments

I seem to be the only one up in the middle of the night here!

I can say that the first part of my life did turn out as I expected. I was of that 50s generation that was so goal driven that we couldn't imagine anything other than "SUCCESS," whatever that meant. I set my goals and worked very hard to achieve them. By age 50 I was doing pretty much what I had set out to do—college professor and composer. A success.

What I hadn't counted on is just how empty life can become after having achieved one's goals. I got out of that trap before it killed me and I can now say that the past 20 years have been beyond my wildest imaginings. Now I do pretty much what I want to do (if I have the energy to do it) and I enjoy every day. This life is a lot of fun and very fulfilling.

Thanks, Ronni, for your wonderful blog. It is always the first thing I click on when I get up in the middle of the night.

I don't know if life has turned out to be what I expected, but the world sure hasn't. Life has been about rolling with the world's punches, trying to notice the next one coming, nether ducking, nor running, but adjusting and, sometimes, thriving. Still bobbing and weaving and sometimes staggering a bit...

Sine it is 5:30 in the morning in my area I really should give this some thought. Not thought of how my life turned out but thought to my words.
I usually type before I think.
Little girl who was raised so humbly and probably poor by a lot of standards had dreams. They really all came true.
Husband, children and all the world had to offer.
But then I found I had married not my dream but a nightmare. All that was no longer exsisted.
So 20 years later started another path. All is well. There are children that I marvel at their abilities and bright grandchildren.
But I am still trying to figure out where I am and where I am going. Life has gone by so quickly.
I guess bottom line is I thought I would always have a soulmate.
It has not arrived.

Ernestine, you really should proof read your entries.
"since" is the beginning word.

I was always torn between two dreams: the accepted 1950 dream of marriage and children and the unusual one of becoming a writer.

Fortunately, I was a nerd who did not attract any interest from the opposite sex, so college and becoming an English professor became my reality.

I detoured into the other dream to marry unwisely (the first time), but eventually comvined a happy second marriage with my career.

I didn't have time to write much until after I retired, but now that I can write what I want when I want, without concern for earning money, I'm really enjoying it!

Life has a way of working out in unexpected ways, but in my case, I'm still enjoying life at 75.

Yanno, Ronni, growing up in the 50's I probably wanted to be a writer too and just never realized I could have done it. The 60's came along and swept me and many of my friends out to sea in its wake. And as a girl, no one ever told me I could do whatever I wanted though a couple of adults (teachers) tried to tell me how smart I was. I was too smart to listen.
Now though I do write, for work and otherwise. And who knows, maybe I would have been a miserable writer! I have had a wonderful life full of interesting adventures and travel and friends. And it ain't over yet.

PS, it is interesting that Gary's comment above is that he was part of the "goal driven 50's" I think the 50's might have been like that for men, but not for women. We were just ignored.
And since reaching those goals didn't make him happy, who knows, maybe we were just as well off.

I imagine my story will be a bit different ....My mother had had a career, leaving her children with various domestics, so I did not want one. I wanted to bring my children up myself. I fell in love with a Frenchman, got married at graduation from college, moved to France. Ten years into the marriage he had an affair with the person I thought was my best friend. That traumatic event started me writing and eventually broke up my marriage. I first wrote rock lyrics for a musician/neighbor, so I then managed to get a job at a radio station in Paris. When I applied to be program director two years later, the person hiring told me he could not give me the job although I was qualified because I was an American, and a woman to boot. At the next station, I lost my highly acclaimed show when I refused to sleep with the boss. Now, remember, so far all this is happening in France, in French. That experience made me plunge into volunteer work, writing a newsletter at the international school my girls attended and working on the school committee. I always put my children first, choosing to bring them back to the USA on vacation every summer, for instance, instead of accepting work at a new TV station. I saw my job as their welfare and made sure they were perfectly bilingual. (All three live in the USA now. One of my daughters went to Brown, the other to Harvard.) Fast forward to my divorce. I tried a variety of jobs, all still in Paris. I started writing articles about France, which were published in the USA. I married my current husband, a Swede, and we moved back here to care for my elderly parents. To pay the bills, we started a B&B. I have been writing all this time, by the way. I explained the part about wanting to be a successful writer in response to yesterday's question. So far, that has not happened. Life definitely did not turn out as I expected!

I grew up in the 50s too and remember at age 12 reading a book about a reporter: Peggy Goes to Washington. So I decided that was the life for me--to write and travel. I also read around that time that keeping a diary was a good idea for a writer, so I've been doing that ever since--before Julia Cameron wrote about morning pages! Although I haven't become a professional writer, I've always written, with some modest publication, and I've traveled. Nobody ever discouraged me from writing--my parents were especially complimentary about my writing, saying that my writing sounded like me! I've been a teacher, editor, and psychotherapist and still do all three. My life continues to unfold in rich and surprising ways. I'm still meeting men and feeling excited by the possibilities!

Anyone who's been reading my blog the past few months knows too well that my answer is a resounding
"NO!" And I'm not done with that series yet! ARGH!!!

Yes, I made some lousy choices but other things happened that I couldn't have anticipated in my wildest imagination!!!

Someone wiser than I said that "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans." and that sort of describes my life.

I have reached a point where I ask, "What's next?" and work from there.

The question? I'm still working on it!

I also was a child of the 50's having been born right after WWII ended. My mother was unusual for her era..she wrote a column for a newspaper, had her own coal company, chaired the first "Mother's March" when the polio epidemic was upon us, bowled and played tennis for trophies. Even with all of that under her belt, she still encouraged my brother to "be somebody" and encouraged me, the girl, along the marriage path.

I dropped out of college to marry, had children at 19 and 24. Divorced, remarried, worked retail jobs...dependent upon my husbands who both insisted on making all of the important decisions for both of us. So, since I never had true goals and/or passions for writing, etc. , I guess my life was what I made it.

I died on December 18, 2003. I lost fear and learned the peace of death. My awakening allowed me to release any exectations. It became my desire to live day-to-day and try to join a proud and respectable legacy in my family that has continually inspired a goodly heritage.

What am I doing in the room with all of these brilliant writers?

Ronni, your teacher deserved that D as she clearly lacked the imagination that you so brilliantly displayed. She should never have been turned loose in a classroom.

I wonder how many bad teachers killed the dreams of their students. Fortunately for some, there were good teachers that inspired.


Mine most definitely did not. If I think about my superficial goals, the things that show on the surface, it might look like I thought, but what is under the surface is very different than I ever imagined. I don't know that I had expectations though for what it would be. Being more goal oriented would have been good for me probably.

Incidentally I think your teacher was wrong on the houses having personalities and even more so spirits. To me, that was an odd reason to grade someone down and perhaps the idea threatened her. I wonder if it made a difference to her later in opening her to something she was trying to not see.

My answer to your qustion is both yes and no. Apart from toying briefly with the idea of being an architect, I always wanted to be a teacher. Despite training at Music College I taught all sorts of subjects to all ages from 4 to adult and enjoyed my career until the last few years when government intervention made teaching less attractive.
On a personal level I dreamed of an 'ideal family life' with a loving husband and children. This was not to be: two unhappy marriages and a few brief liasons were the best I could manage. However, I do have two adult children whom I wouldn't be without.
Ronni, I do so agree that teachers can ruin your dreams with a hurtful remark. My music teacher told me I had a 'farthing squeak from Woolworths' when I went for the choir audition. I've been reticent about singing ever since.

Reading these stories about 1950's attitudes has brought it home to me like never before just what a difference ten years can make to the zeitgeist, particularly ten years with a world war in the middle of them. For when I was growing up in wartime England, everything important was being done by women. The schools, the stores, the offices, banks, factories and farms - all were being competently run largely by women because so many of the men were away at war. So it never occurred to me that my career options were in any way limited by my gender. Not that I recall having any specific career goals before the age of 40 when I went back to University. I did fancy being an actor when I was around 18, but that idea faded again. I always knew for sure I would write books one day however. And that I would have children. And find a soulmate. And finish up living in a cottage in the country. In those four ways, my life has turned out exactly as I expected. But in a thousand other ways I have been surprised by the variety and richness of all the other experiences, feelings - and even careers - that as a child and teenager I never dreamed I would have.

My life has definitely not turned out the way I thought it would. I thought I would do one thing until I retired. Instead I have had 6 "careers" and am embarking on another.

My parents and teachers discouraged me from studying music in college. The tenor of the times was to find a steady job, make money, raise a family, and retire on your pension. Music was a precarious way of life, and besides, it was filled with all sorts of undesirable persons.

But I did it anyway. I always wanted to teach, but figured I would do it in higher education. My first job was in public school, and I became hooked.

Then I simultaneously began to get burned out and got a computer. I quit teaching and went into the computer industry in several capacities for 14 years.

I became disillusioned with the corporate world and realized I was not doing what I was supposed to in life and quit a very "successful" career.

I went back to my first love, teaching, this time in a private studio. Then started going downhill health-wise and had to retire on disability at age 57.

These days I have recovered sufficiently to be somewhat active. I started a blog, and it occupies much of my time. I am actively working on building a new business that I can run from home.

I thought that I would teach until I decided to retire, probably in my 70's. But here I am.

It has forced me to reconsider my sense of self-worth. I have learned that it comes from deep within myself and from my spirituality, not from what I do and from what others think of me.

I have learned to write my plans in pencil, because they *are* going to be erased!

I agree with the other Gary up above---in the fifties as a guy you were expected to have a goal/career path in mind. Class of "55" from Pueblo,Colo. (Go Wildcats). I went up state to the U of Colorado, primarily to get away from home, no specific goal in mind---and my life kinda just happened, unplanned---as it were, ended up spending 30+ years in Aerospace Procurment---and no real complaints. (now retired and creating Memes to devil bloggers with)

GaryJay (aka old Dude)

I grew up in the poor end of an affluent place, and developed a strong achievement drive to get out of my poor surroundings. It took years before I was to know that I two powerful advantages: I was white and I was male.
I never had a clear plan. I just worked hard in high school, and my intelligence got me into college.
I majored in Psych because a friend said it was "cool". I never left between there and the Ph.D. I learned around age 5 that I was smarter than most age peers, so my track up the educational tree was no surprise to me.

I guess I always expected to do better than my folks. That was communicated to males of my generation. But beyond that I just put my head down and plowed ahead.

There's a saying in baseball that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I prepared, and, voila!, I turned out to be lucky.

I also had a "Miss English Teacher Dream Killer" my junior year in high school. I wrote in the first person, after my death, which I thought was a very unique and interesting view point. The "Dream Killer" said it was impossible to tell a story from the grave, because, after all, I did not exist. Talk about bursting my bubble!! But to answer your question, I was pretty much like you in not having any specific goals. (My husband would take care of me and I only needed some secretarial skills to fall back on. You know, just in case.) My life is nothing like I imagined it would be, but it has been an enjoyable one.

I agree, that teacher should have received a D, for Destroyer of imagination. Wouldn't life be boring if all turned out as planned? It is the unexpected turns that make the road interesting and provide us with challenges that make us grow, whether we like it or not. I expected to never get married, never have kids and have a serious career in science, none of which happened, but I still love my life.

I too kept a diary, but even I cannot read my own handwriting thanks to a third grade teacher who thought being left handed was to be in league with the devil, sigh, and did her utmost to make me right-handed. Ergo, writing wasn't even on my list of things to do.
My music teacher made up for the third grade teacher. She was also the choir director at the church and invited me to join the choir --really?, but I'm in league with the devil! I wore my black choir robe for many happy years
Singing saved me from a hum-drum life, and surprised me with opportunities I could never have imagined. That's me, third from the left, second row..

Youthful goals and dreams?

Get a second opinion!

A high school Priest/English teacher gave me a failing mark. He accused me of copying my composition assignment because he thought it was too good.

I transferred to a public school where I became the editor of the school magazine for three years.

After graduation, I went job hunting and was asked "Can you type?"

For twenty years, I wrote but ripped up my work. In my forties, I wrote an essay about a subject I felt deeply about. It was published.

Now I am returning to another passion - art. This time I'm trusting my own opinion. LOL!

All the interesting people I know say their life has been an adventure that they could never have anticipated. Mine too

"Plan for the worst, hope for the best and grab with gusto, that what comes to you."

Con Brio!

I've had so much fun reading all the comments. What a wonderful group of readers you have...

My life hasn't turned out like I thought it would when I was bordering adulthood. I can't quite explain why this is so, and I certainly don't say this with any bitterness or regretfulness. I think I'll mull on the matter somewhat and write something about it a bit later. Ronni, I love how you get us all working our brains.

I still wonder what I want to do when I grow up.

My life has been harder, and much more rewarding, than I could have ever imagined as a child. That I would be a single parent for 16 years--no way! Have one child and six grandchildren--ridiculous. Earn my undergraduate and graduate degrees in my 40s--get real.

In my early forties, I felt the aging clock start to tick within me, and finally started listening to that little voice within me, the one that I had been ignoring for so long.

At age 59 (as of next week), I'm still happy to be learning, growing, and listening to that inner voice that never steers me wrong.

No, it has not. But then I'm not sure what my expectations were to begin with. I feel as though I've been carried along by others in my life and had very little control over it.

My roles models for women's employment were few in the 50s. I remember my Mother working at the air base during the war. My Grandmother worked in a laundry. After the war Mom stayed home with her growing family. I once remarked that she had not used her college degree and got an earful.
I was programed to go to college I don't remember any guidances in career choices beyond Future Teachers of America. I thought I would be a teacher and my too favorite subjects were English and Biology. Nursing the other favored occupation for women was out because I didn't want to take chemistry.
I dropped out of Oregon State College after my sophomore year to get married. I wound up working in a Bank for 5 years. Then I had jobs as a bookkeeping machine operator. I had always planned to return to school and get a degree and finally when I was 30 I enrolled at the University of Wisconsin. I had no idea what I would major in just that I would get a degree. I utilized the campus counseling service for career counseling and went for a Social Work Degree. I got a BA and MSSW and commence on a career in Social Work. My other goal was to see my children grown and to celebrate my 50th Wedding Anniversary.

Nowhere in my plans were being a full time care giver for my husband as he got progressively worse from cancer. He now has Stage IV metastatic cancer and the odds are we won't celebrate our 50th Anniversary as we have 2 1/2 years to go.

We have been fortunate to live out a dream as full time RV travelers before my husband got too sick to travel. We had 11 years on the road and wanted to keep going.

I expected to be taken care of by a wonderful husband. I had no idea what work I wanted to do. I was fairly good at a lot of things, and not outstanding at any one of them. What they all had in common was that people who made careers in these fields had to be very competitive, and I just wasn't.

Along came the 60s, and my main ambition was to get out of the tiny town we had lived in through my high school years. So, I got out and went adventuring, in a sort of a "hippie" kind of a way. I was a bit too conservative to really fit in there, and my life became a search for others like myslef with whom I could "bond." I mean, who are you when you like Victorian furniture and posters of Jimi Hendrix?

My indecision lead to many years of poverty-stricken life, but then, toward then end of my second marriage, I discovered THEATER. The first time I stepped on stage, I knew I had to keep doing that forever.

Husband number three was my "soul mate," and we married after a 15-year friendship, when I was 51. He was even more involved in Theater than I, being a teacher, actor and director, as well as a set designer.

I discovered costuming, and that led to the only paid work I have ever enjoyed. So I earn my living designing and building costumes for plays, on the community theater and high school level, and act, for fun.

My soul mate is no longer with us, by his own choice, and I am resigned to a life alone.

My youngest child leaves for college next month, and my 31-year adventure in cheld-rearing is over.

No, really.

The funny thing is that, even if I had stayed in college, discovered theater there, and set out to be a professional costumer, I would probably be doing the same kind of work I am now. Maybe getting paid a bit more for it, but doing essentially the same work. I had always sewed and designed clothes for my dolls and myself.

I never seriously thought about writing professionally, but always did it for fun.

So, no. Life has been a series of truly unexpected events, and nothing has turned out the way I thought it would, even though I didn't do a whole lot of planning...

Wait, wait, wait ---

We're supposed to grow up?!

Huh.

It was 1960 and I was nine years old when I told my mother that I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up. She made an appointment to talk with the vet who cared for our dog, and I was excited. I told him quite matter-of-factly my goal and without missing a heartbeat he looked down at me with a smirk on his face and said, "Girls don't go to vet school!" My mind still goes blank when I try to recall the moments that followed his pronouncement. My mother undoubtedly thanked him for his wise counsel (she revered men as figureheads, why I'll never understand because she married four losers). We must have left quickly. I don't remember talking in the car about what had just transpired. I don't remember that I cried in front of her, or at all. My sense is that I shut down with the finality of his words. I think I felt silly. Like you, Ronni, I lost my goal. My life has had twisted twists and gentle turns. I wasted a good deal of it in drink, but I salvaged it in time to have over two decades of sobriety, a completed BA in my late 40's, a good second marriage (although when I was a kid marriage was not at all in my plans), and a growing sense of peace with my path. This week I took one of our cats to the local vet for a check-up where he was seen by one of the three women vets on staff...

Lydia here. I failed to sign my comments above that begin with: It was 1960 and I was nine years old...

A common thread in some of the readers' posts is how it takes only one negative nay-sayer to interfere with a young person's belief in trusting inner wisdom.

Fortunately, it is never too late to recapture a dream or many dreams.

Ronni, this blog entry really touched a nerve.

I grew up in the 50s and had many secret dreams of what I wanted to be as an adult. But I knew that my dreams hinged on being a boy, none of my dreams were available to a girl. And I knew that growing up to be a boy was not in the cards.

As a result I had no overt personal ambitions, although I think my mother had ambitions for me that for awhile I tried to fulfill. Her ambition for me was to complete university and get a job that paid well. She said, "don't think that you can just get married and live happily ever after." But to everyone's surprise I did not complete university, I did get married and I did have kids. And ended up as a single mom on welfare.

However, looking back, I think I also ended up fulfilling many of my "secret dreams" as well as my mother's ambition. I did go back to school and complete two degrees and get a good job. I built a house by myself, I lived in Europe by myself for a year, I have travelled by myself all over Canada and parts of the US, and many other things that I am proud of and satisfied with. And I didn't have to be a boy to do it ;-)

,i>No, it has not. But then I'm not sure what my expectations were to begin with. I feel as though I've been carried along by others in my life and had very little control over it.

Kenju, you read my mind.

However....

I don't have a "bad" life at all. It's rather nice...these days.

Every couple of weeks in grade school, we'd received a newspaper-like publication - "The Weekly Reader". I devoured it from cover to cover.

That little newsletter and my habit of reading National Geographic magazine made an impression - I wanted to write about far away exotic locales.

So far, I've been to Oahu and Cancun. 'Bout as exotic as I have gotten.

But hey, my grandmothers seldom ventured further than 100 miles from the farm place.

Sheesh...I have no brain this AM.

Above was mine. And my quote html flubbed.

I deserve what I got...it appears.

I was born in 1939 and was bored out of my mind as a child. I knew I would go crazy if I had to be a housewife, so I studied hard on my own and won a scholarship to Stanford, where I majored in physics. My mother originally felt sorry for me when I decided to go there. She was sure I would end up a lonely "old maid". It did not turn out that way.

I've been married for 44 years now and my husband and I have a wonderful daughter.

I decided not to get my Ph. D. in physics...instead I worked professionally as a creative problem solver, developing software for scientific research. That choice gave me plenty of time to spend on the questions that really intrigued me:
(1) What makes people happy?
(2) How can we develop our inner strength?

I've studied psychosynthesis, NLP (neurolinguistic programming), the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Enneagram, etc. and have taught classes and led groups on these and related topics.

My basic philosophy is: Stay curious and open to life. No matter what happens keep learning and growing. Find what you love to do and find a way to share it with others.

It has worked well for me.

Thanks for the great post!

I was going to be a nun, a famous actress, a circus clown. Okay, I actually *was* a circus clown, but only for three years. Then I got a day job and life took over. I met my sweety and got married, fell into a technical writing career, had a baby (now all grown up). I made the choices all along the way. The bottom line, I guess, is that my life turned out the way I chose for it to turn out, even though it's not what I expected back in the nun-actress-clown days.

My life has definitely NOT gone the way I expected. If it had, I would have had two kids and would be some sort of standard-issue ecological mystic. (Nothing wrong with that, but the world didn't need one more.)

I was hit by an asteroid in the form of my now husband, and knocked onto a course at a 90-degree angle from the one I was on. Sort of from Thoreau to Nietzsche.

As a result, I kind of think life knows better than we do and that
"plans" and "dreams" are overrated, if only in that even when they come true, they turn out to be so much different than you imagined. Or? I'll go back and read the stories now and see if anyone had it turn out just as they saw it, just as they called it.

Mean teachers: I had and still have a tendency to write purple prose. In Freshman composition in college, a Harvard section head, or whatever they called them, told me with disgust that I wrote like a "female Loren Eiseley." This was probably true, but it didn't escape me that Loren Eiseley got away with it rather nicely and that "female" was the insulting part of the description. I shut up for about two years.

It was probably good criticism but badly delivered. It made me feel cringing shame instead of laughing at myself and getting the point.

Wish I had had role models. When it came time to choose what classes to take in junior and senior high school, my mother said to take commercial courses and I'd problably work a couple years and get married and stay home to take care of the kids. This was her only option and what she did. I managed to take Spanish and algebra along with the shorthand, bookkeeping and typing, but the counselor refused to let me take geometry, or a lab biology. At graduation time, I was called into the principal's office and told that one of two left over $100 scholarships to the local university was being given to me because I had good grades. That got me into college. At the end of two years I quit to get a job. On interviews I was told I was overqualified which is, oddly enough, a way to say unqualified. Luckily the university hired me. After a year in the academic atmosphere, I returned to school fulltime. Still drifting, I did postgraduate study for a teaching degree. I envy those who had goals and people to push them. I haven't done badly, but it was all unplanned. Do wish I had a family.
Had both encouraging and discouraging teachers. My sixth grade teacher told the class my script for the flag day program was good enough to use by itself, but she wanted to include other kids' work too. One English professor said an essay I wrote was pure poetry. But I just turned the English degree into a teaching job.
In a logic course, a teaching assistant asked who didn't take geometry in high school. Out of about 100 students, I think two of us raised hands. His comment. Why did they let you into the university?

Wow, Ronni, you sure can stir up a lot before breakfast! The comments are all so poignant and I sit here wondering if it truly is bad advise givers, our Meyer-Briggs combo (ENFP here), our Enneagram number, or our karma that propell us all forward in these interesting decades...what we DO with what happens to us is probably a mixture of the mundane and the miraculous.

I, too, had a fifth grade teacher who blasted my friend and me when we'd written an ambitious science fiction tale, in episodes, no less.

The Witch took one look at our ilustrations and said, "That spacemachine can't fly--it's too round," and indeed we were grounded for awhile.

Being orphaned between 12 and 13 led to boarding at a private girls' high school, as my guardians didn't want to try to handle my rambunctious spirit. There I learned to study, because that's all we could do-- besides clamber for imagined status within the internecene battles of the 4 classes.

Brains did not convey the same bouquets as beauty, even within the cloistered walls which supposedly prepared us for lives of charitable service. Wealth was assumed, though I didn't have it and never would in their high-class estimations.

The administrators invented dozens of ways to keep us in our places. We were chaperoned to church every Sunday, with an old maid at each end of each pew! Trust of the girls was nonexistent. I remember being friends with a junior when I was a freshman and even that was discouraged.

Even though I went on to Stanford, practically across the street from that private high school, the career counseling for women circa 1970 was poor. Nurse, teacher, maybe anthropologist if you were really wacky, but rarely science-oriented...but along with that stuffiness came the late Sixties and the War and the protests, which changed everything for many of us. We began to Think.

"Huh--so diving under our desks to avoid being irradiated WAS totally stupid...maybe so is much of what our Gov't says...?!"

AND much of what the mores of the day told our parents was also put aside, gladly. It'a as if at least part of a generation said, "Let us embark on our own being and becoming"...with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and (thanks to a Texan first love), the soul brothers and sisters of the South and Motown, for me. Hmmmm...so we stumbled forward, me on the West Coast in the thick of those rebellious times.

I shall save for my memoirs the tangled tale of a first marriage, the bit of inheritance that led to a precocious natural-foods restaurant in the woods, the later return to teaching which I'd been trained to do, and finally the 'graduation' to working in a community college along with a second marriage....and a second Master's, which was the first one of which I chose what I wanted to study (psychology and communication).

So that's a big chunk of my almost sixty years on the planet. No kids, just pets, and mostly cats, though there WAS a sweet ST. Bernard named Heidi who shared the first dozen years or so with me, and who is the dog of my blog title. My students were and are my kids, many of whom keep in contact via the Internet, delightfully.

So, did it turn out as I'd planned? No indeedy, but yes in a way, as well. I didn't marry my first Texan love, I did become an English teacher for awhile, but I didn't foresee using my pluck and energies and enthusiasm to becoming a program director of varous community college populations (reentry, international, financial aid-eligible), nor how much I would LOVE that ability to assist students, as I hadn't been helped, as they came to adulthood, or reshaped the one they'd grown to.

Having one foot in the classroom, and one in creating clubs and activities and opportunities for my students was made for me, but it will take longer than this windy thread to weave that tale. And ghow to reshape that energy when one retires is a constant adventure for me...

How I wish someone or some institution in the early years had said or created an education which indicated I could be a leader, and nourished those skills.

Maybe that's why I love my dynamic field of intercultural communication now, and being a sort of networker via blog and communities I now seek out intentionally and regionally.

Just think if we DID encourage every child to become what she or he might be..."what a wonderful world this could be" as the old tune goes....hey, let's all work hard to give back what we can now!! Thanks sincerely, for 'listening' to this reaction. ~KWW

So many answers! Great question.

At 10 I thought to myself in a moment of epiphany, Whatever else I do, I will be a writer. So far as I remember that is the only goal I specifically set. Then life happened as it did for many women who grew up in the '50s. But I always wrote. I won a statewide essay contest in high school which said to me "you can do it." I wrote all kind of things over the years, some of little consequence, some of more consequence than I imagined. Some 30 years ago I gave my diaries from the 50s to the Schlesinger Library; a few weeks ago I found they are being used by a Ph.D. canidate to write of life for girls of that period. Who knew?

While married, raising children, getting divorced, moving to NYC and supporting myself, all that time I wrote all kinds of things including many plays that had tiny productions way off-B'way and a published book about travelers to Tibet. A few articles, stories and poems were published and several were not published, along with several novels both finished and unfinished.

Always writing has been a part of my life like eating, like doing the yoga that I've practiced since I was 30. Eating, yoga, writing -- they sustain me. The life I lived concurrently was interesting in ways I never imagined -- and interspersed with the bad spells.

So my only goal was not, as one writer [male] said "success driven". It was, instead, a part of who I understood myself to be. The small successes were sweet but they were gravy. And the many good things that I did not expect I call whipped cream. Yes, I ate a few bad oysters and a fair amount of stale bread but mostly life has been delicious.

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