Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Making a Difference - The Ripple Effect

Over the past couple of months I have been fortunate enough to reconnect with various friends and relatives over dinner. Whether these women are sorority sisters, friends from college, cousins, or past colleagues they may appear ordinary to anyone unaware of their accomplishments. But to see their resumes, or hear their stories, they are the rock stars of extraordinary. One has her doctorate, two have run a theatre, a couple could be classified as marketing gurus, one started her own jewelry business which now boasts a star studded clientele. Others excel at their chosen field while some chose family over career; raising children and now contemplating about their next step once their children are grown. Their resumes may be varied, but they all share an intelligence and sense of humor that is mind boggling. They stimulate my mind and make me laugh all within one conversation.

I am in awe of these women and am so thankful to have them in my life. Their accomplishments are jaw dropping. Yes, I have my own accomplishments. But it seems as if somewhere along the way, I was supposed to go straight but ended up making a left turn instead. Ironically, having always been directionally challenged, my broken internal GPS is a metaphor of my life.

As a child I could not wait to grow up. I wanted to be free and independent. It was important to me that I not rely on anyone else. Some how, some way, at a very early age, I learned that the only person one could really depend on was oneself. Everyone else in my life tended to disappoint.

My plan was to move out as soon as possible. I wanted independence even before I knew how to spell the word. I knew the type of house I would buy. It was a white tiny Victorian with a red door, a beautiful floral garden and white picket fence. With a JC Penney catalogue in hand, I would curl up in a family room chair for hours and mark everything necessary for my future home. Furniture pages were dog eared, kitchen gadgets circled, bedspreads and curtains marked. My home was going to be perfectly JC Penney-esque. Now, I prefer a Bloomingdales or Pottery Barn existence, but at 10 my world was all about JC Penney.

Sadly, life got in the way. Pretty soon I found myself following other people's expectations for my life; ignoring my own inner voice and giving in to the other person. It was so much easier in life than to argue for what I wanted. Slowly that Victorian house with it's red door and white picket fence was a distant dream.

I lived my life as the "perfect child"; consistently achieving excellent grades and honor roll acknowledgements. Please understand, I was NOT the perfect child. I was spoiled, selfish and greedy. My brothers will be the first to attest to that statement. I also did anything my parents asked of me. I never rebelled. Actually, I did not know that option existed. In college my over achiever status continued because I knew it made my parents happy. As my GPA rose my weight diminished. My focus and determination subsequently caused my battle with anorexia and bulimia.

Following the expectations of others has plagued me through my life: in my marriage, while raising children, while living with my mother, in every company I have ever been employed. While blindly following the expectations of others I consistently ignored my inner voice. The rare times I did listen to that voice, the masses were so surprised that I spent too much time justifying my actions. Eventually, it was easier to fall back on obeying everyone else's thoughts about how my life should be run. I chose the easy road - not the one less traveled.

Maybe because it is the end of the decade that I am thinking about regrets vs. accomplishments. Maybe it is due to my health scare last year. Maybe my life could have been different. Every choice made in life walks us down an unknown path oblivious to where the other roads may have led. Would our life have been better for making one choice over another? Maybe, but what is the point in wondering what if? Would my life be that much different had I chosen Pi Phi's over Tri Sigs? Many of the women mentioned above would then be missing from my life and I cannot imagine that fact at all. My mother, a very pragmatic women, once mentioned that if I chose one road vs. another the above questions would be a mute point as I would not know what I was missing. There would be other rock-star intelligent women bringing other gifts into my life. Still, I know and love these rock-star intelligent women and do not want to imagine my life without them.

I have never been a fan of "shoulda, woulda coulda" thinking. Maybe the life I led, brought me to where I need to be with the knowledge necessary to go forth. There was a time in my life when I selfishly forced paths. Looking back, each time I "forced" something, the Universe slapped me upside the head because whatever I was forcing was not in my best interest. The list is quite lengthy and each Universal slap was well deserved.

In a conversation with my cousin Deirdre, she mentioned how she wanted her career to make a difference. That thought impressed me and has stayed with me. The question then becomes what is making a difference? That is a highly personal answer and different for everyone. Grant writing makes a difference in various lives. Educators make a difference thousands of times over. Musicians, members of the military, doctors and attorneys all make a difference. Each difference is in the eye of the beholder.

After repeatedly making left turns in my life, I want to make a difference. I am unsure what that difference is going to be but know I have the capacity and intelligence to follow through once my mind is made up. Does making a difference start with only breaking down in tears one evening in a week because there was too much week and too little money? Does that breakdown cause me to discover alternative plans and actions to have more money than week?

Or does making a difference mean that I may be ordinary, but raised intelligent thought provoking children who may make a difference in the world. Maybe my part in making a difference is rearing the ones who actually will make a difference. Does that count? Or is that cheating? Is the verbal vomiting in my blog making a difference somewhere in cyberspace? I can only hope that something I have done, written, or someone I have assisted, has gone on to make a difference in this world. Yet, I too, want - no need - to make my own difference. But what will that be?

What I do know is that we all have a responsibility to the world in which we live. A responsibility to help others grow to be strong caring, loving individuals who know the world is just a little better due to our participation. To have existed for naught makes no sense to me. Everyone has a purpose. Each person starts their own ripple; effecting so many people.

What is my ripple?

No comments:

Post a Comment