We’re spending the first part of the holiday break with my family in Georgia before heading to Boston to see my Husband’s family. Although I guess technically they’re all our family now.
Growing up, the annual Christmas trip to Georgia was always a highlight of my year. My immediate family was spread across the south and east coast while my parents resided in the midwest, so Christmas was the one time a year I’d see everyone together. I especially cherished the time I got to spend with my Grandmother.
My grandmother is your classic southern belle – sassy and opinionated yet delicate and graceful. Her thick accent softens even the hardest consonants, adding extra syllables with a sticky sweet drawl. She tells stories dappled with humor and history and I always come away from our conversations with new insights.
This year is no different. She’s gotten much older and more fragile, but still just as witty as ever. Sitting in her living room, we talked for several hours our first night and I heard a few stories I hadn’t heard before. And one of them sparked a very simple but important insight.
In my grandmother’s day, college orientation was a bit more analog than it was for me. She arrived on the campus of UGA, fresh-faced and excited – one of a small number of her girlfriends who went to college instead of getting married right after high school. She was bursting at the seams with excitement to sign up for Journalism classes, her chosen major.
When she arrived at the large gymnasium, it was filled with tables, each one labeled with a different major. Students were lined up to register for their desired course of study and pick their respective classes. My grandmother looked around for the Journalism table, but, much to her dismay, the line of future journalists stretched out the door and wrapped around the side of the building. Not wanting to wait in that terribly long line, my grandmother walked a few tables over and signed up as an English major instead.
I can’t say what the impact of that decision was. Maybe it ended up being a smart choice for her. But she also may have missed the opportunity to pursue something she was genuinely excited to do. She could have become a war-time correspondant, or written a weekly manners column in the paper. But then again, I might not be here if she had.
Perhaps this change in course had absolutely no implications. But we’ll never really know. Two years later she was married to my grandfather and spent the next 20-something years of her life raising children.
Hearing her tell this little allegory reminded me that we’re faced with hundreds of decisions every day. Some of them are small (wear this shirt or that one), but some come with an impact that ripples out for years (accept this job or that one). The best tool we have for decision making is a strong vision of what we want our future to look like. A true North to guide ourselves toward. And the conviction to get in the much longer line.