I just got home from a football game. Now those who know me well know that me and football just don't go together. But my grandson, Nathan was playing, so what could I do? He's thirteen and this is his first year playing. His older brothers are both cross-country runners--good ones too--but Nathan prefers football to running though football calls for a good amount of running. His team won too, 22-0! He's fast and he could be an excellent runner, but he chose a different sport and is very happy with his choice, bruises and all.
Many times in life we're faced with choices. We can go the way others have gone and be perfectly happy doing so, but there are times when something inside of us chooses a different path and that's fine too. Not all choices are between good and bad. Sometimes we have to choose between two acceptable alternatives and our decision makes all the difference in our life experiences.
I once struggled between becoming a teacher or going into law enforcement. Both are honorable careers, but something inside me said I should write and I became a reporter. Life has also given me ample opportunities to teach in my home, in church callings, and I did a little substitute teaching on both the elementary and collegiate levels. My work as a reporter and my writing careeer have given me a taste of law enforcement, which it turns out is enough in that field for me.
For a year my church calling placed me working with mentally handicapped children where someone compared the shock and surprise a parent experiences when she is expecting a baby and is filled with dreams of the marvelous things that child will accomplish in his/her life then when the child is born, learns the child's mind doesn't function the way she had expected, to a traveler who plans a fantastic vacation in Rome, but when her plane lands discovers she's in Holland instead. They're both beautiful destinations, but there is a definite need for a mind shift.
Life is like that. Some choices are made willingly, even eagerly with an understanding of where that choice will lead, some choices are unexpected and seem to be made for us. Sometimes we look back and wonder where life might have led us if we'd made the other choice. Sometimes we resent the choices thrust upon us. But no matter whether we choose willingly or the choice is thrust upon us, we can always control our attitude toward the place where we currently find ourselves. We can choose to continue onward on the path we're on, we can pick a new direction, and we can choose to be happy on whichever path we find ourselves.
Parents often discover that when a child is grown he/she chooses a life much different from the one they had envisioned for their child. That's where a wise parent accepts the child's agency along with the career choice, college, or mate the child chooses. A black friend told me that when her white fiance announced their engagement to his parents, her future mother-in-law was upset and tried to talk her son out of the marriage until he reminded her that all of his life she had prayed that he would find a worthy companion he could take to the temple and that the woman he'd chosen was worthy and ready to go to the temple. The mother-in-law reflected on this for a moment and decided her son was right. She'd prayed for worthiness, not color, and her prayer was answered. My friend says she and her mother-in-law are the best of friends and both laugh now over the story.
Writers need to remember, too, that their characters must face choices and those choices have consequences. Characters who always make the "right" choices aren't realistic. When a character comes to a crossroad, the writer must study carefully where the different options will lead and which choice a character, if real, would actually make. Even surprise choices, which are often what makes a story unique and memorable, must be in keeping with the personality and convictions of the character making the choice.
We may be surprised to find ourselves in Holland when we were expecting Rome, but that's the way real life happens, so be prepared to enjoy tulips and windmills even if you're expecting something entirely different.
I'd love to hear about choices you made that were different or about a situation you found yourself in, not of your choosing, and how you dealt (or are dealing) with it.