Life is all about choices. We’ve heard that phrase a million times, so it’s not like I’m telling you something that you don’t know.
But, I believe that there is a caveat to that.
I have heard others wax poetic about what they “have” to do in life – their “path” as they call it. I know little girls that have their wholes lives planned by the time they’re 12: graduate high school at the top of their class, graduate from a prestigious college and then law school, get married, have 2.5 children, a dog, a house with a white picket fence and live happily ever after. I know others who feel like they have to live other’s lives in order for them to be happy: graduate from their parent’s alma mater, go into the family business, marry the girl next door, have 2.5 children, blah, blah, blah.
I don’t know if they were never told, or they never listened, but … THERE’S A WHOLE WORLD OF CHOICES OUT THERE!
Most people are familiar with the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. On a similar, but more modern vein, comes a quote from Jay-Z’s recent memoir, Decoded. In decoding the lyrics for the song, Renegade, Jay states that the line in the lyric – I drove by the fork in the road and went straight – refers to the fact that, when “forced into a f@&#ked up choice where you lose either way, choose your own path.” While simplistic and almost common sense when you truly think about, I think that this is sometimes one of the hardest lessons learned.
I never did anything that conformed to the typical “standards” of society. I bucked convention…not necessarily on purpose, but simply because of the circumstances of my life. Remember the little 12 year old girl at the beginning of this post? The little girl who wrote list after list and had notebooks filled with hopes, dreams, and goals for what she wanted to accomplish, who she wanted to be, and what she was going to do?
That little girl was me.
I had dreams and plans. I was directing my life down a path where I would eventually graduate high school in the top 10% of my class. I was going to graduate from a top college, then law school, where, once again, I would graduate at the top of my class. I would be recruited by a major law firm where I would work for 7 – 10 years, quickly rising on the partner track. I would meet the man of my dreams, we would get married in a lavish garden ceremony, with the most beautiful dress ever created (which I would draw over and over again in those aforementioned notebooks) and we would have 2.5 children, a dog, and a large Dutch colonial house with (gasp!) a white picket fence.
As fate would have it, as is always the case, things did not quite go as planned.
Through a multitude of circumstances, I ended up pregnant at 14, dropping out of high school, getting my GED at 17, while also raising a toddler, getting married at 18 in a civic ceremony, having three more children and, after 10 years and three different schools, attaining my bachelor’s degree at the age of 32. Oh, and I did all of this while also building my career. I have worked hard over the years and have dedicated myself to my craft. Some would say I was lucky, some would say it was fate and in the cards all along, but I say that it was my perseverance, attitude, and desire to tell all the naysayers, “F you!”
All told, I consider myself very successful. Even given my circumstances, I chose to dig, climb, kick and scream, and pull myself out of what could have become a much different fate. Instead of succumbing to what appeared to be my pre-destined future, I chose to create a much different path. A path, not less traveled, but not traveled at all, because I created the map, planned the route, and then navigated the course.
I have learned that life is what you make it.
While life is about choices – some good, some not so good, and some just fate’s way of letting you know that something greater than you exists in this world – life is even more about how you respond to those choices. You can either let life knock you off the horse and then kick you while you’re down and choose to stay off that horse for good, or you can choose to get back off that horse, and ride the shit out of it!
What will you choose?