As 2012 draws to a close and 2013 begins, I find myself looking forward more than looking back. Specifically, I’m looking forward five months. That’s when my life will take another turn into the unknown, when more of our path and direction will be set. In May 2013, my dear husband, Dr. Dan, will be graduating optometry school, and the adventure will be turning to a new chapter. The last few chapters have included eight years, six states, and two doctorate degrees. It’s been an adventure, but soon that chapter will come to an end. He’ll still have some training left in the form of a residency (though we don’t know where yet), but for all intents and purposes, we can start exploring that illusive concept known as “settling down.” I still have no idea what the reality of that will look like for us. For the most part, I’ve stopped trying to imagine it, because every time I try to “picture” my future, I’m wrong. Life has been very good, but very different from what I imagined. Then I remember another graduation, ten years ago.
I was 18, on the stage for my own high school graduation. I remember snapshots – the white cap and gown that looked more like a confirmation robe than graduation attire, my friend K. walking in with me, the faces of certain classmates as I faced them for my speech, wondering if they understood the meaning behind my words. I don’t remember much of what I actually said – just the first line of my speech – but I remember the point I wanted to get across. You see, I wasn’t sad at graduation. I was thankful, very thankful, for all the people there and the senior year of high school that they had given me. I loved my friends and classmates dearly, but I knew even that day that my future wasn’t with them. I was anxious and excited for that future, whatever it was. I had no idea what it held. I only knew I that I had one more summer with them, and then I was heading out on my own.
In my speech I tried to convey my gratitude and deepest care for them, but I couldn’t resist looking ahead to the future, as well. I seriously considered including the lines of a Dixie Chicks song (this was back when they were popular in the country music scene). I decided not to because I recognized that my family would also be sitting in the audience, and perhaps it would be insensitive to include lyrics about how badly I wanted to leave home. My parents gave me a great childhood, but I still felt a strong connection to these words every time they came on the radio:
Who doesn't know what I'm talking about Who's never left home, who's never struck out To find a dream and a life of their own A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone Many precede and many will follow A young girl's dream no longer hollow It takes the shape of a place out west But what it holds for her, she hasn't yet guessed She needs wide open spaces Room to make her big mistakes She needs new faces She knows the high stakes
I had plans. I was moving west (Wisconsin was west of Maryland, after all), but what the world held for me, I couldn’t guess. I knew I would be studying English and Secondary Education, but beyond that, I had no idea. And that was exciting! The world was open, waiting for me. At the same time, I did have a general idea of how adult life was “supposed” to happen. I’d watched my parents and teachers, and I knew the pattern. Go to college, get a degree, find a job, settle down, get married, have kids. In that order. When I walked across that stage for my high school graduation, little did I know what life actually had in store. Little did I know that I was mere months away from meeting my husband, that I would marry before I graduated college, that we would spend the first six to seven years of our marriage travelling all over the country instead of settling down. I didn’t realize that my love of classic literature would be superseded by a passion for helping teenagers establish themselves as successful young adults. Based on the guidance counselor I had at the time, I would never have predicted that one day I would dream of becoming a school counselor myself. I couldn’t have guessed that in ten years, I would be attending another graduation, this time in Boston, watching a husband that I’m ridiculously proud of receive his OD, after already having earned his PhD.
Yes, the last ten years have turned out very different than I’d imagined, and in May 2013, a new chapter will begin. I don’t know where, and I don’t know what it will look like, but that’s OK. Not knowing is part of the adventure.