I thought I'd start a new discussion that somewhat resembled the last. I believe in God, but I also believe in fate and our ability to change circumstances via free will. That was the point of my last major post. I truly believe every major decision in my life has totally affected how I am now -- and I am happy now. Of course I might have been happy had other decisions been taken, but I obviously weighed the pros and cons, whether it be jobs or personal things. Honestly, the three things that mean most to me these days in order are 1) my cat; 2) foreign travel; and 3) teaching, writing and research.
But when I think of how if I had made any other decision in 1994 than to take this job rather than the other one, or before that to get divorced, or before that to actually marry the alcoholic Frenchman, I am compelled to think how my whole life would be different.
If I had chosen the job in Saint Louis, I probably would have been more social, though not much. But it's a city, unlike where I am in Maine. That has had good and bad effects on me. As an only child with nothing but unpleasant experiences with other children, I was always introverted (now always excepted when abroad), but have become more so in a small town. I love anonymity, which is why I loved Boston so much. I never lived in fear of seeing students or co-workers in the bookstore or grocery store (even though I am totally innocuous) as I have since 1994 when I moved to central Maine. I don't like small town life and never will. When I retire, probably ten years from now, I will either move to the coast (I adore the ocean) or to a city in New England. If I had stayed married to my first husband, I would have celebrated my 42nd wedding anniversary this month (I'm saying thank you, God, right now) and would never have gone to college at all, let alone grad school. If I had stayed married to my second husband (a fellow grad student, with the same advisor), I would have been celebrating (I use the term loosely) my 30th anniversary next August. Happily both are married again and from what I can tell, happy.
But I would not have been. And that's what I attribute to the Fates. We didn't have a whole lot of choices back then as women, so that's why I got married when told 'or forget it'. I had to ask permission of my first husband, even though he was unemployed throughout our marriage, to apply to colleges.
This is a long way of saying I would not be a Marriott Rewards Insider, former ambassador, Delta elite member, and (I think) somewhat interesting person, had not all the pieces and decisions fallen into place as they did. Right now I would be a really cranky 60-yr-old secretary supporting her family or living in Michigan or France with my second ex or so-called fiancee.
Instead, I love my life. I have my 'kids' though they graduate every four years but I still get very attached to many of them. I have a job I mostly love, and that gives me enormous benefits that allow me to experience the cultures of so many parts of the world. And get this -- my two surviving family members, a father and his sister, my aunt, now say they're proud of me. And so the Wheel of Fortune turns.
I always go back to Joseph Campbell, however cliché it may seem (my accents are working again!), and tell my students, follow your bliss. If your bliss is plumbing or construction, then do it -- like my bus driver sort of not really 3rd husband [we did not get married, it just lasted as long as my marriages] who loved meeting and talking with people. But I always tell my students to do what they love, because phases of job hirings in certain areas come and go, and if you ONLY go for security, you may never be happy.
Chrisf, my wistfulness was only due to Paris. I'm actually a pretty happy person. That's where the beginning of Mary Hopkin's song comes in -- I've got the life I chose....and I love that life. It has opened me up to people, cultures, and things I never could have imagined in a lower-middle class childhood.
I love how open and transparent and vulnerable you allow yourself to be. I think it impossible for a person to allow themselves to be that way unless they have truly elevated themselves to that place where they are finally and incandescently happy, at peace, and completely "at home" and comfortable in their own skin. And so to you, my fine, academic friend and fellow traveler, I say, 'Congratulations and Well Done!'
(I have not yet elevated myself to that high place yet, but I am working on it! )
Thank you for such incredible and undeserved words! But in the humble spirit that they deserve, I accept what you say. I love my life, even when I am sometimes wistful. (The wistfulness I alluded to last week in Paris often adds to the experience of life -- if all were sun or roses, we would never appreciate either. The sometimes negative things help us appreciate what is good and positive.) So even when I throw out an idea about what was, I am thinking about what is and will be. (This is why I'm learning Greek. I taught enough of it to myself in a college linguistics course to use it to analyze the verb to be -- how boring can you get as a person??? -- but that is what ancient Greek philosophers contemplated when they talked about einai (είναι) because for them the concept was so elusive. When I look back, I didn't have a clue. But now that I'm both reading ancient philosophy again and learning Greek really, I see the difference between what was, is and will be -- or as they said, being vs. becoming (the latter two representing the huge philosophical difference between Aristotle on the one hand and Plato/Socrates on the other). I fear I'm off on a tangent I love so I'll stop.
But my point is that their idea, however strange sounding to modern ears, is really about how we all live our lives. Some of us live in the past, some in the present, some in the future. And some (I suspect many MRIs) are always 'becoming' as they venture into new cultures, new areas, and new places.
I also thank you for such incredibly sweet and obviously heartfelt comments. Most people don't get me (even or especially here at home), but I have a sense you do. As for the exes in my life, they added to it. Not always positively, but in the whole process of the thing they showed me what I wanted and did not want. And I will always love them.
At the same time, I can't accept the high level of elevation you give to me. Although I give whole lots to charities (all animal) I can at the same time be very selfish in doing what I want to do. Maybe that's why I chose hermitude and travel .
But I thank you so much for your comments. They mean a lot!
those of us that came from very humble beginnings oftentimes feel somehow inadequate, or at least unworthy of actually well-deserved praise. Although I do not really know at all, I am quite confident that any praise bestowed upon you is, in fact, very well deserved. You seem like a lovely person that has found joy in her life's work, and enjoys sharing those joys with perfect strangers in an on-line community. I think that is awesome. I wonder if your students realize how lucky they are to have someone so willing to share knowledge and do it in a very enjoyable manner. Don't ever stop writing.
I agree with Jerry and shoeman, and the others. You are definitely not overrated, and are highly appreciated by all of us. I wish I could have had more people like you in my youth, to inspire me to higher levels. We all remember people like that, who make a real impact on who and what we become.
I appreciate your sharing, profchiara, as well as the trust you have put in the members for allowing us an insight into your life and thoughts. I am keeping it short and sweet this evening as it is late.
I believe that fate is what happens when planning and preparation meet. And it doesn't, necessarily, need to be conscious planning. If you are prepared in your mind and/or your stage in life, fate will make an appearance. I also believe that where I am in life is exactly where I am supposed to be. Even if that's not where I want to be. lol. There is always something to be learned from even the direst of circumstances. Whether it is about myself, or about someone, or even something.
To quote the lyrics of a great Garth Brooks song:
Some of God's greatest gifts
Are unanswered prayers
Thank you, all! I was really lucky to have gone to a public high school that made us read, read and read some more, then write even more. It gave me the books to live in and the skills of writing.
And MissGee, you've hit the nail on the head about fate. I don't think it just happens -- you have to be at that stage in life for things to occur, good or bad, in ways that change you. I think a willingness to embrace and even enjoy change is one of the greatest gifts a person can have, which is why I mentioned the ancient Greek emphasis on becoming as opposed to being. Bad things do happen (I suspect we've all experienced some really bad times in our lives), but I think most of us have a choice how to respond to them. I couldn't agree more with Garth!
And Shoeman, you're right that we never quite get over that idea of "am I really good enough" because of humble roots. It's gotten easier over thirty years of college teaching, but the first time I walked into 'my' classroom as a TA at Brown, I was so nervous that I dressed to the hilt, walked in and immediately twisted my ankle and fell on the floor. Talk about embarrassing! Yet that was a key turning point. As they helped me, I did my best by laughing. It really broke the ice for me (fortunately no bones), and at the end of that first ever class they gave me a bottle of Bordeaux and a dozen red roses. While I haven't matched that in any way since, I learned not to be afraid of public speaking or appearing inadequate (even when I still sometimes feel that way).
Thank you all again,
ProfChiara -- it's a real pleasure being part of this forum.
Yep, but at least in my youth (relatively speaking) it was just a turned ankle thanks to high heels. Now I fall more because I've got systemic arthritis, worst in neck, knees and hips and a replaced toe joint.
MissGee, I think it only is as we get older that we suddenly 'get it'. I was always overly polite to people, always said yes when asked to do some task etc. before age 40. Then something in me snapped (or grew up), and I decided while I will still always be polite to nice people, I don't have to take nonsense any more from anyone. It was quite a liberating feeling.
That's how I felt when I reached 25, but mine was a bit different since I was working in an office with lots of women working as clerks (in other words, a hen yard). Bullied a lot by them. Went home daily mentally telling them off and had a lot on my plate since I had two young sons and had been deserted by an alcoholic husband when the youngest was 3 weeks old and we had been kicked out of the house we'd been living in because it was his 1/2 sister's and her husband's and they lost the house due to their alcoholism. So I got this clerical job making min. wage ($1.65 / hr.) in 1971. Anyway, mentally telling them off effectively hypnotized me so I started telling everyone off who was mean to me. After realizing I was saying just mean things myself, I started saying whatever I was thinking so that there would be more good thoughts than bad ones. Even though I don't really know what's right for me to do, I'd rather say whatever I think like I do now than go back to being afraid to say anything as I was raised.
And I wanted to tell you, ProfC, that you should have been proud of yourself for the situation you got out of in Paris. I doubt there would have been anyone else who could have pulled that off. You didn't sleep that night because you were worried about it and it was key on your mind, so you were still pretty attuned to everything in the morning. Not only did you know the language and keep your cool, but you knew the traffic patterns and how many gates would be open at whatever airports you were going through that day. That was due to experience of someone flying your route, and you also had the best credentials on the airlines because of all that experience. But I think you have a strong guardian angel or spirit guide, too. :-) (If you don't believe in that, I'm not sure about it myself.)
But, anyway, I'm a big admirer of yours, too.
Your life sounds like it was very difficult in your 20s but it sounds like you found your voice sooner than I did and came through it much stronger. You should be very proud of what you've accomplished.
I am never snarky or mean-spirited unless someone is that way to me, and usually not even then. Sometimes I find the best way to defuse someone like that is to say something like 'sorry you feel that way.' When I was once yelled at by a colleague at Logan Airport waiting for a bus who said I did not attend enough of her events, I replied simply that I was sorry. She kept yelling, and I just answered quietly that I have health problems that I don't usually go around broadcasting.
And eb, yep, I was a little proud of myself at CDG. Thank goodness for the airport lounges everywhere, though - that is one of the few things I could not do without, not only in terms of guaranteeing a place to sit, but for when things go wrong. I find that the receptionists and attendants in lounges are much more willing to go the extra mile -- especially than a gate agent. My second choice is usually to call the airline but that wasn't a viable option in Paris.
And Shoeman, I do know it! I'll watch my back as well as being careful to behave .