Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Different Choice

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.


Daley Family said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mindi said...

Well, you know about the choice I had to make a year ago. Certainly an unexpected path that has terrified me on a regular basis. I hope we are blooming where we are now planted and we are working on the future for us. I'm sure there are going to be plenty more surprises coming and I hope I can handle them with some amount of grace instead of the kicking and screaming I usually greet them with!

Jennie said...

Mindi, I think you have done a remarkable job of dealing with an unexpected and unpleasant choice.

Haiku Amy said...

We made a huge decision a few years ago to move. We were living in Southern UT in a small town, and decided to move back north. My husband is a school teacher so he wanted to get into a bigger school with hopes of getting a bigger program. We feel like this was a good move as far as his occupation goes, but the problem is that we can't afford our own house with our income in this part of the state where we could where we were living.

So the path we are on right now is a difficult one, but with my husband trying to advance his education we can hopefully be able to afford our own home one day. It seems to me that even good choices can lead to trials.

Kelsi Rose said...

After graduating for college a year and a half ago, I decided to move back home. It was a difficult choice, I love being independent and having my own place. I had to sell my car and give up much of my independence. It has been one for the most challenging times in my life. My mom has had to be in the hospital off and on, my dad lost his job, I have had to take ove many of the daily tasks of running a house hold, and yet there have been so many blessings. I have few friends in the small town that I live in, but I have found my best friend and we are planning on getting married in December (that particular choice has brought its own can of worms).

Melanie Goldmund said...

Before I had kids, I always imagined that they would inherit the "reading gene" from me and that we would spend many happy hours together in the living room, each one of us sunk in our own book.

[insert icon of hysterical laughter here]

Although my sons did not turn out to be the avid readers I'd hoped for, I still love them, and I'm actually quite proud that my 16-year-old is teaching himself to make animated films on the computer and wants to work for Pixar when he gets older, or that my 13-year-old can make an array of noises that would guarantee him a job in the sound effects department of whichever company George Lucas used for his Star Wars films.

But I did have to make a mental adjustment -- in fact, I'm still adjusting. On the one hand, I praise their efforts and try to encourage them to use their talents, even though they are different from mine. On the other hand, I'm probably the only mother who sends her kid off to Youth Conference or other such activities with a kiss and a plea of "Please read something while you're gone!"

This sounds so lame in comparison to the other trials that people have. Sorry.

AzJen plus 5 said...

I have always had a hard time with "people" (generally someone close) who would take a "who cares, no big deal" attitude about something that was really important to me, or something that really mattered to me -because OBVIOUSLY, I care and it matters to me or I wouldn't have brought it up, right?... so just for Melanie, if it matters to you, it isn't lame! ;^)

Hmmm, back in high school I was taking a sign language class and one day I had the thought that maybe someday in my future I would have a child who needed me to know it. Well, I do not have a child that is deaf (yet, who knows what the future holds). However, we have a 4 year old who has been diagnosed with high-functioning Autism. And I use some of the sign language I learned then, with him now.
Having a child with special needs is a challenge in and of itself, and there are days that seem like weeks - that happens with typically-developing children too... it can be just a bit more volatile with a special needs child.
Sometimes I think that something that you wouldn’t choose can be the best thing for you. It puts you in the position to learn something new, try things a different way, in my case my son is showing me the world in ways I haven’t necessarily seen it before and I’m sure that will continue.
Remember, Life might be handing you that lemon just so you CAN make the lemonade ;^)