I’ve waited all my life for a particular cusp, a turning point where I would recognize myself as complete – grownup and assured – with a clearly marked path into the future. In my youth, I knew that such a day would arrive. It existed beyond what I was doing right now, just past a pivotal accomplishment, coming soon, coming soon.
Raised by old-world minded parents, my pursuits were limited. As high school ground to a close, I viewed the future with dread. There was no money for college, and my mother had decided that I would become a secretary. One afternoon, to the surprise of my classmates, I was summoned to the counselor’s office. Gossip soared. What could the little wallflower have done? What sin had been committed?
“You’re interested in art” said Dr. Thompson. “I have a one-year scholarship to MICA. Do you want it?”
My mother was a rigid no. She feared influences that would drag me away from my upbringing, but my pleas won out. I went to college, discovered new pieces of the world, of myself, fell in love and then out, got my first apartment, first job, all the time waiting for that day when the invisible switch would flip, a turning point that would crystallize and direct my future.
I partied and painted, got married, traveled, moved to the country. We built a home, had two beautiful children. I grew organic vegetables, mastered French cooking, opened a gourmet restaurant. Life was good. My husband’s business took us to Florida. With friends, I joked that I hadn’t decided what to do when I grew up; alone I wondered about that turning point I had once expected and what had happened to my younger, surer self? As much as I loved my husband and children, I questioned this tranquil domesticity. Had I chosen this or drifted here?
My husband’s partners proved duplicitous, leaving us financially pressed. We sold our home and returned to Baltimore, seeking jobs. I spent time with my elderly parents, earned a master’s degree through the educational benefit provided by my employer. My thesis was published. “You should thank those guys,” said my husband. “If they hadn’t cheated us, much of this might never have happened.” He was right; so many good things had come from a bad experience. In that moment I knew that I did not need the celebratory turning point imagined in my youth. My life was a series of turning points, some good, some bad, each taking me to a new place, a new discovery, a new level of myself. And that is what life offers us –turning points –and the daily opportunity to fulfill new possibilities.