Playing the Cards You're Dealt
Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about choice. Not about Pro-Choice, although I am definitely that. How can anyone be against the right to choose what happens to your body? And that goes for men as much as it does for women.
Rather, I’ve been thinking about some of the major choices I’ve made in my life, and now that they are in my rear view mirror, how do I rate them? Did I make the right choices knowing what I know now as I sit squarely in the later years of my life?
When I was twenty—well, almost twenty-one—I married my high school sweetheart. Major choice to be sure. Apparently, a mistake, as I chose to divorce him four years later. But was it a mistake, if I learned something about myself in the process?
Not sure what I learned, as I married again less than a year later. A fellow eight years older. Maturity on his part, as well as mine, should count for something, right? Perhaps not so much. I also divorced him twenty-six years later. Best thing that came out of that relationship was my daughter and son. The worst thing was that I chose to stay in that relationship way past its expiration date.
Looking back now, I know I should have put more time and space between my first divorce and my second marriage. My goodness, I was only in my mid-twenties at that point. What did I know about life?
But, what the heck, I played the cards I was dealt.
Isn’t that the foundation of choice? Sometimes it’s an either/or situation. Either I get married or I don’t. Either I divorce or decide to do what? Continue to be unhappy, abused in some way, try to get my husband to therapy while the whole family is at odds? Of all those cards, there was only one logical play.
Our careers often present us with choices too. The most obvious, of course, is the answer to the question we hear starting in childhood: “What are you going to be when you grow up?” My earliest response was “Annie Oakley.” I had a holster with two silver pistols and spent hours playing in the yard with my sister and foster siblings. That may have been acceptable in the 1950s; however, I can’t imagine encouraging my granddaughter to take after me and to strap on a holster these days. For obvious reasons.
With my cowgirl years behind me, I chose to head to the University of Missouri to study journalism. As editor of my high school newspaper, this was a logical decision. Until it wasn’t. I missed that high school sweetheart I mentioned above, crying incessantly every time he drove me to LaGuardia airport and I boarded the plane to St. Louis. So I chose to put my sorority sisters behind me and return to Connecticut.
Do I regret doing that? Had I stayed at Mizzou and finished my studies there, who knows where I’d be today? Except, I probably would’ve left eventually since my mother became terminally ill with cancer, and she needed me home.
The next card I pulled was to commute daily to New York City to attend Katharine Gibbs school and get a secretarial certificate. All in all, this was a good choice. Not only did I learn skills like typing, shorthand, and grammar, but also I developed a philosophy of doing the right things right the first time. We had electric typewriters, not computers. So, if we made a mistake in typing a document, we had to finish that page and then start all over again.
Clearly, my perfectionist tendencies were born during that year. For better or for worse.
Once graduated, I bounced around to different companies, building my administrative experience, increasing my salary with each move. Early into my second marriage, I landed an entry-level job at Xerox Corporation in Stamford, CT. Yet, opportunities for advancement abounded. I climbed the ladder as high as I could go in the secretarial and administrative ranks.
My choice was: to stagnate there or further my education. I chose the latter, ultimately getting a bachelor’s in business and an MBA, both from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT.
And then the fun began. While still at Xerox, I became a financial analyst. Then I chose to leave the workforce when my daughter was born. But only until my son arrived. An executive I’d worked with at Xerox offered me an opportunity to join him as he launched an executive education firm. I’d have the chance to utilize both my administrative and financial skills. Best of all worlds. I stayed there for six years, helped build the firm, and then chose to leave my comfort zone. I accepted a position as a manager of finance at a small strategic marketing agency.
While I sloughed off my secretarial and administrative years in favor of managing dollars and cents, I quickly inserted myself into the business of that business. I started proofreading proposals and client reports. I attended creative meetings and offered opinions on designs and headlines. Soon, I started meeting with clients and contributing to the financial success of the firm. I held a new set of cards and made a choice.
I became an account executive there and then took my new skills and expertise to a large brand marketing and advertising agency. There I built a reputation and my own brand that enabled me to eventually leave the agency world and cross over to the client side.
The rest is history? Almost. After working for a couple of banks in the Boston area, and moving there after my second divorce, I was offered the position of a lifetime. There was only one problem. I’d have to move clear across the country to Seattle, Washington. Away from my family to an unfamiliar city where I didn’t know a soul.
What choice did I have?
Remain in New England? Stay in my comfort zone? Or take the road less traveled, at least for me. I chose the beautiful Pacific Northwest, or maybe it chose me.
During my ten years there, I noodled a manuscript for a novel I’d started before I’d left Boston during an extended weekend writers’ conference. I carried it with me in a black tote bag to every apartment I lived out there. And there were five apartments!
I could have stayed working at that company in Seattle longer than I did. But in 2016, I decided it was time to retire and come home. Other than taking care of my young granddaughter, I had no definite plans for my retirement years. Just go with the flow, I figured.
What emerged and flowed was my writing itch, which I chose to scratch. In the last five years, I’ve written an award-winning romantic comedy trilogy. How about that?
Now, as a writer and author, I wonder if my future had been in the cards all along, starting way back in high school or when I went to Mizzou in search of a journalism degree?
Maybe what I thought were choices in my life were actually stepping stones to my second (or third) act…my destiny. If that’s the case, I only have one thing to say, “Deal me in.”