What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? For me, it's something my Grandpa has said countless times, and while it has never been billed as advice, I think the opportunity to apply it to my own life is implied. He says, "If I had my whole life to do over again, I'd choose the same job, and I'd marry the same woman." Not bad, huh? It leaves plenty of room for some different choices here and there, but how many people can genuinely say they would have the same job and the same spouse? Maybe one or the other, but BOTH... now that's a truly lucky and inspired life. Especially considering he came of age in an era where you picked both early, and stayed the course, even if you realized a little too late that you made the wrong choice.
I think about this bit of wisdom often, and it has helped me make some hard decisions. But I wonder how much different the world was back when my grandfather was choosing his path compared to now as I choose mine.
I imagine in the '60s that there were far fewer "paper pusher" desk jobs, not to mention entire industries that barely existed. My entire work day is spent staring at a computer screen, which definitely would not have been the case then. He chose to be a high school physics teacher, and I think he genuinely loved it right up until his very last day. I have many friends who decided to move away from teaching because the increased demand on teachers to be available 24/7 in our digital world was too stressful, especially for the meager pay. It may sound cliche to call it a "simpler time" but I bet it was. Yes, there were fewer career path options, but I would be willing to bet that more people felt they had a purpose and believed that the work they did contributed to something meaningful.
Relationships have changed too. In those days, it was pretty common to marry early, and rare to leave once you had. Luckily for him, he didn't need to because honestly my Grandma is the kindest and most magical woman alive (another thing he says a lot, specifically in reference to her, is "Damn, was I ever lucky!"). Today, with online dating and an ever-increasing pool of candidates, it seems like it would be easier to find the right person to share your life with, but the allure of someone new and different often wins out and causes a potential relationship to fizzle before it even really ignites. Not to mention, thinking about my own history, and the people I dated in my early twenties... let's just say luck doesn't begin to cover it. It'd be a downright miracle for any of those relationships to have lasted over 50 years as my grandparents' has.
All this to say, my Grandpa's bit of wisdom is my ultimate goal - to look back on my life and be completely happy with the biggest choices I made for my life. But I think in order to apply it to life in 2021, it isn't as cut and dry as two big choices. I have to really inspect the gray area. It's a constant series of choices, with consequences and rewards that aren't always immediately apparent.
I can surely agree with him that I have unquestionably found the right person to share my life with. Someone whom I would gladly choose again and again, no matter how many times the question was asked. That said, I am also cognizant that in order to make our relationship work, in order to keep choosing each other, it requires a lot of work, a lot of give and take from both sides. We are constantly expanding our thinking and learning new ways to be better partners to each other, in order to make a relationship last in a world that is designed to cause it to fail. I think having an awareness that at any moment one of us could make the choice not to be together, an option that wasn't available (or acceptable) for many people until the recent past, makes that hard work easier, and it makes the continued choice to stay together all the more meaningful.
As far as work goes, is it my dream job? No. But in today's world, aren't most jobs just sending emails all day anyway? Instead of thinking about the work itself, I think about the life that this job affords me. My job offers stability, which in turn allows me the time and opportunities to travel and pursue other hobbies that give me the fulfillment that people in previous generations relied more heavily on their jobs to provide. Not to mention a nice retirement pension that will (hopefully!) result in many years of unencumbered time to spend doing the things I love. This job is so much more than just the work. It's the life it allows.
There are always challenges in life, but there are big wins too. I think the challenges I face today are different from those he may have faced, but it strikes me that those two big, but seemingly simple choices he made, only look big and definitive after a lifetime of making the same small choice every day for many decades. Making the small choices day by day that he knew would add up to the life he has loved. All the little decisions I make from day to day, are adding up to something bigger that I won't fully see until later.
So, when it comes right down to it, if I had my life to do over again, would I choose the same job and the same husband? In the words of my Grandpa, "Damn, am I ever lucky" to have chosen exactly the life I wanted.
Over the past 14 months, while we've all been home during the pandemic, there have been a lot of unanticipated things that changed because of the way we've been living. Some of them have been wonderful, like being able to sleep more now that I don't have a commute, and better work life balance that comes with working at home. Of course, there have been many other things that I haven't loved as much, like missing out on concerts and events I had been looking forward to or missing big family events at the holidays. Now that we are finally starting to come out of our hibernation and slowly return to our lives as they were before March 2020, I've realized something I missed a lot that I didn't even realize I was missing... the friends of my friends.
These are the people you see four or five times a year at your friends' birthday parties and backyard summer barbeques. The people you have grown to know over the years through being at the same gatherings. The people you might be friends with on Facebook or Instagram, but don't have phone numbers for. The people on the fringes of your life, whom you never had FaceTime calls with during lockdown, but would genuinely care to know what's going on in their lives.
Their lives all carried on during lockdown too. The tiny babies you remembered are now toddlers, and new tiny babies have made their debut. People have bought houses, gotten dogs, cut their hair, and a million other big and little things. Things that seeing someone even four or five times a year don't seem as dramatically noticeable as when you haven't interacted with them in over a year.
It's easy to think of your friends as being the people in your innermost circle, or even to think of the pandemic as a way of paring down, or showing you who was really important to you by way of seeing who remained close during time apart. But even while talking to those close friends this year, and being so grateful to have that network of people, there were times when things felt lonely. After seeing some of these friends on the outer edges of my circle again, I'm reminded that even the most casual friendships truly help round out our social circles in an almost surprisingly meaningful way. They play a bigger role than I had realized in keeping my circle full and vibrant. Just because you don't see someone often doesn't mean that you wouldn't miss them if they were gone, and I'm grateful to this time away for showing me how much it means to be part of a larger network. As the days get warmer, and the pandemic finally (hopefully!) starts to wind to a close, I am really looking forward to seeing these people again and growing my circle back to its former glory.