Updated: Sep 27, 2020
There is a quote by Nelson Mandela, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” Now, a half-century through my life, this is what I try to embody.
At age 17, I chose to pass up going to college and instead hop on a plane. It was only the second time in my life to have flown. The first I have no recollection of, and this, the next, was a flight to California to get married. The choice may have been mine; the action was a reflex to a question my grandmother had asked. It came when I, a heartbroken 17-year-old, was trying to get over my first love moving away.
I had decided I was too young to get married and asked my first love for a break for the summer; his reaction was to move back to California and end our relationship. Around the Thanksgiving holiday, still trying to recover from the broken heart of young love, my grandmother asked a question that altered the course of my life. “What if no one else asks?” she questioned. Now I need to set the stage for you to understand the impact this question had on my life. I was a gawky seventeen-year-old granddaughter of the Pentecostal minister in a town so small that I graduated with 65 people, 12 of whom had been in my first-grade class. It was apparent I lived a sheltered life up until then.
So, when my grandmother asked me that question, who had been married since she was 18, about the only boy/man I had ever dated, I panicked and thought, “OH MY GOSH! What if no one else ever asks?” Now I loved this boy/man, but I was in no mental state to be married. Regardless, I called him, apologized for asking for a break, and told him I loved him. He asked me to move California, where, within 48 hours of my arrival, we drove to Reno and were married before the Justice of the Peace and his family.
That choice was 100% driven by my fear of being alone for the rest of my life, fear of not being worthy of love from anyone else later in life. While again, I recognize I did love this boy/man, I was not married out of love and anticipation of a life together. Instead, I was married out of fear; this offer would never come my way again.
I will not go into the details of my marriage and ultimate divorce because that in no way connects to the point I am trying to make here. I got divorced, but not until ten years and a beautiful, healthy daughter later. That is where I want to go with this story. I had a beautiful, happy, healthy baby who smiled from ear to ear and had more joy then one would think possible in such a tiny thing. She sees the world through the eyes of potential and drinks in the world around her with an unquenchable thirst.
My daughter’s father and I separated when she was around three years old, and then finally divorced before her 5th birthday. I tried to date; I mean, I went on dates with men. Men I dated wanted what any man would want; to know they matter, they come first in your life. That is what happens when you are dating at 29. Well, they were not ever going to come first. As a single mom raised by her grandparents, and who had no idea who her dad was, I made a choice, a very definitive and intentional choice. My daughter would ALWAYS COME, FIRST!
Fast forward to 2020. My beautiful baby girl is 27, lives in Atlanta, works for a Marketing Agency, and is a driven, passionate, and vibrant young lady. She is fearless! She left New England for college in Charlotte, moved to Nashville, TN, and then on to Atlanta. She is not fear-based; she is hope- and mission-based. She has always had a gift to listen to her heart and make a choice with so much faith; it amazes me. I hope that some of my earlier choices to put her first helped influence and shape her into the person she is today. Regardless, over the last 30 years, I have become much more aware of the power of my choices.
There is much debate over the expression, “You can’t have it all” and, ”You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” While I would love to say I have found in life you can have your cake and if you want more, buy more cake, but the reality is there is one thing we cannot buy no matter our position, influence, or income purchase that is time. So, when we make a choice, the moment of that choice and the place in which we exist and those around us exist will never come back our way again.
I made many choices as a single mom. Some, I thought, at the time, was putting my daughter first by striving to achieve success at work and afford her the privileges I wanted her to have, which I had never experienced. The cost of those experiences came when I was traveling and missing her playing basketball in 3rd and 4th grade, and many other missed moments.
Now, if my daughter calls, no matter what I am doing, I stop and try to give her my undivided attention because I realize her reaching out to me is a gift. Of all the people she could give her time to, she chose me at this moment.
Anyone who knows me is aware of my desire to make choices that create memories and enrich the lives of those I love. Time and how we spend it and what we do with it is our most significant investment. Choosing to stay at a job you hate because you are afraid of leaving is a fear-based choice. Choosing to seek new opportunities that will enable you to find some form of joy in your life is a hope-based choice. I am so amazed when people I know over 50 say I will ride it out; it is a good company. I think to myself; you are talking about 10 or 15 years of your life
Life always offers us choices. If we are willing to look at why we want a change, have the faith necessary, and act, we can redefine our life. I know this because I have done it more than once.
Here are some questions to consider:
Do I sometimes feel the world is working against me? What can I change to change my situation?
Why do I want something different than what I have today?
What action am I willing to take to make that a reality?
How did I get here? Were the choices I made mine or were they fear-based thinking?
What is my hope based choice? Why is it my hope?
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