When I was in high school. I worked at a Hallmark card store. I learned so much from that job. Much of what I learned was how NOT to treat people, but that’s a tale for another day. As a young, impressionable girl raised on Dynasty and Danielle Steele, I loved a good story.
One of my coworkers, an older lady named Betsy, told me a story that I still think about sometimes. (Let’s note that I’m now the age of Betsy, “the older lady.”) The summer after high school, Betsy was at the beach for the weekend with her girlfriends. She was planning to attend Vanderbilt University that fall. Before she packed up to leave, Betsy decided to take one last walk on the beach, and on that spontaneous walk, Betsy met the man who would be her husband for the next fifty years. She started dating him and decided to ditch Vanderbilt and get married shortly after their beach rendezvous.
As a snotty and know-it-all child of the 80s, I was appalled that she would abandon her plan of attending a prestigious university for some strange guy she just met on the beach. And for what? To become a wife and mother working part-time in a Hallmark store with high school students? How could she even be smart enough to have gotten into Vanderbilt in the first place if those were the kind of choices she made? But Betsy seemed very happy and was a sweet lady with a good life. I liked her a lot.
There have been times in my life that I think about that story and the seemingly random events that change the course of our lives forever. What if Betsy didn’t go to the beach that weekend? What if she decided to pack up and leave instead of taking one last walk? It often feels like our insignificant decisions (a spontaneous walk) can have way more of an impact than our Big Life Decisions (choosing a college). As an over-thinker, I find this notion simultaneously comforting and unsettling. Nothing matters. Everything matters.
I am at a crossroads right now, slightly stuck in The Waiting Place, as wise Dr. Seuss called it.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
— Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go
Eventually I will get unstuck and choose a direction, but for now, I’m sticking it out right here. My friend introduced me to a phrase that’s often used in the recovery community, and when my head is spinning with options and I’m overwhelmed about what to do next and how things will turn out, I find that it helps me get back on track: Just keep doing the next right thing. I can do that. And eventually, I believe, the right walk will lead me in the right direction, probably when I’m least expecting it.