I've been giving a lot of thought lately to how I make decisions, particularly the big ones. Not just while rereading past journals, not just to understand for the sake of understanding. I know I've some big decisions ahead of me, foreseen and unforeseen. And I want to make them as consciously and effectively as possible.
In the past, I have been quite influenced, positively and negatively, by the perceptions and opinions of others. The usual cast of characters - parents, teachers, friends, authors. And the occasional stranger.
One in particular. A young woman who impacted the entire course of my life. Picture this - l957, Mid-west, Catholic all-girls school, sheltered girl from a strict Sicilian family, taking clerical courses to become a secretary. Enter a young woman asking to give some IQ tests to juniors for her masters degree thesis. For some undisclosed reason, I am selected to participate.
After the test is completed and scored, young woman asks what I intend to study in college. "Who, me? College? I'm not going to college." The young woman, aghast, "But you have to. You're too bright not to."
Me, stunned. No one had ever called me bright before. She persisted, speaking to the nuns to support the idea. Offering to speak to my parents on my behalf - did not take her up on that one! And the more she persisted, the more an idea that I had never entertained became a possibility.
So, I summoned the courage and went directly to my father, who, somewhat stunned himself, said, "Why would you do that, you're just going to get married and have a family. Besides, we can't help you. Any money we can spare has to be set aside for your brother." Remember, it was l957!
But the possibility had become a dream and with it came a new possibility. I could make a decision that my parents did not support. The rest is history. How I was one of only a very few of my class to enter college on graduation. How I earned my own way, becoming the first woman on both sides of my family to get my degree. How I went on to get my masters degree.
Certainly, I will never know what my life would have been like had I not met the young woman, had I not gone to college. But to quote my favorite poem by my favorite poet, Robert Frost...
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.
So, however much I research and contemplate alternatives, how much I seek the wisdom of others, I hope I never forget to stay open to the insights and inspiration of total strangers.