Often when doing a mindless chore, such as washing the dishes or folding clean laundry, I wonder what my life would have been like if I had taken the path of my heart’s desire. I’m not talking about the romanticized ideals of youth but of the true purpose that I was put on this world for. As I muddle through middle age, I find that I’m still just as confused as to what that is as I was at 21. I had expected to be surer of myself by now.
I’ve been married more than once, been a mother twice over and have lived in so many different places over the years that I’ve lost count. My hair has more grey in it than its original color which, as I recall, was some shade of brown. The photo albums collecting dust under my bed reveal my lack of commitment to any particular color. At least it was never green.
Early on in life I wanted to be an author. I clearly remember telling my mother this around age 6. I had just started to learn to read and thought that writing books had to be the most fulfilling job in the world. Actually, I still do. For some unknown reason around 12 years old, I decided that I wanted to be a laboratory technician. That still baffles me. Next came librarian, college professor and finally attorney. All good and attainable goals.
I did start graduate school and law school. I decided that they weren’t for me. My life became a series of carnival rides. You know the kinds. Some spin you around until you’re too dizzy to see straight and too nauseous to care. Others take you higher and higher then plummet you towards the bottom until you’re screaming and hanging on for dear life. While these are fun on a summer afternoon, I don’t recommend making them a lifestyle.
So back to my purpose in life. For a time I thought I was supposed to live in the Middle East, helping to build a small but determined country. Even now, when my mind wanders, I wonder if that’s what I should do next. But I am no longer an idealistic 18 year old. I like my comforts and that fact that I can walk outside my front door without worrying about bombs. I’ve grown settled and soft. A move like that requires great sacrifice and I don’t have it in me anymore.
So where does this leave me? Perhaps instead of wondering what I haven’t accomplished I should look at what I have done with my life. Being a mother was no piece of cake and both of my sons have turned out to be decent human beings. Not every mother can say that. I have true friends that stand by me no matter what foolish path I wander down. They are truly my touchstone. My sisters and I like each other. That’s a wonderful legacy from my mother. I share my home with a funny, smart, sexy and sarcastic guy who loves me exactly the way I am. That in itself is worth its weight in gold.
It’s pretty obvious that my life has not been just a big ball of confusion and wasted time. If I’m lucky, my life span may go on a few more decades. Instead of thinking of all the places I haven’t been, I can decide where to go next. Learn a new language? Why not? Finish my novel? Of course I can! Dye my hair green? Well, probably not. But I could if I really wanted to. The only limitations I have are ones I place on myself. It’s time to forget about regrets and get down to the business of living.