Health & Well-Being

This Way or That Way

At the time of this writing, it’s snowing outside. As the flakes fall and gather on the ground, such peace brings memories. Like flurries in the wind falling in swirls and settling on the white blanket, it reminds me of all the possibilities of childhood, choices made, roads taken (or not), and how we come to “now.”

Which childhood influences cause us to choose one road or another? Is it strictly internal chemistry or our environment? We are each unique as humans. Cloning aside, our DNA is ours alone — not just a product of one parent or the other or the combination of the two: there are often random changes, possibly a chip from some ancient ancestor or just a spontaneous blip. We are the stuff of evolution.  

Margaret Mead spent months in Samoa, trying to discern the influences of nature versus nurture, exploring the impact of the natives’ born selves and their culture and how these factors influenced behavior. This exploration was her life’s work as a cultural anthropologist. Whether Samoa or this community, the process is the same. What influences us to live as we live and do what we do?  

Our unique selves were developed within family environments that actively curated our culture—shaping where we lived, our values, religion, schools, playmates, food choices, attitudes, manners, fashions, and more. This control structure remained with us until we entered school. As each year passed, our extended environment, including friends and external events, increasingly shaped us. We were the center of the universe during our early years, where the present constituted the entirety of our world. Around age 6, we began developing a sense of time — distinguishing between past, present, and future. What happened before is in the past; what is happening now is the present and will soon be in the past tense. Where will we go on Spring Break? That’s about as far as the future goes. 

kevin gent DIZBFTl7c A unsplash BW W jpg

The snow suggests safe, soft beginnings. Then we age and take all this “drift” along with us, making choices from the various flakes. Maybe I’m fusing Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” with “The Road Not Taken” (probably the same woods in different seasons). The presence of snow makes me think about these things.  

In retrospect, if someone had read my 17-year-old palm and predicted I would be where I am today, I would have said they were crazy. According to my upbringing, my life should have taken a decidedly different path — one designed by my parents. They wrote the script. Of a three-act play, Act 1 ran according to script; Acts 2 and 3 did not. I wrote those acts from life and situations my parents could not have imagined many years ago.  

For example, there was no emphasis on college education for me like there was for my brothers. Their education was for a livelihood; I was to attend college in case my husband died, forcing me to supplement the family income. A career for me was unimaginable to my parents — I had to imagine that myself. When I was growing up, women could become nurses, schoolteachers, or secretaries. 

My generation changed that trajectory. My mother followed the scripted life; my father did not — otherwise, he would have spent his life practicing law in rural Mississippi. World War II caused that blessed segue, or I’d be writing this article with a Southern accent.  

Forging new pathways in a world of ever-greater possibilities has its downsides. I have chosen some paths that I wish now that I had not. Some choices appear reasonable at the time; even on close examination of long-term consequences, they look good, but the unforeseen occurs, leading to a swamp. Strength comes from finding a way out of the swamp and back to dry land — not flogging yourself for getting wet. Learn from it, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and move forward unafraid. There is no perfect path: I’ve learned over time that life is like coaching a football team — the goal of each game is to make more good calls than bad ones to win, then prepare for the next game.      

Snow is not a perfect thing, even when it appears that way. Who would want “perfect”? We try to make good choices, but the random irregularities make life interesting from beginning to end. Even so, the snowy scenery is simply beautiful.      


Barbara Glass

A Yankee by birth, a Midwesterner and Southerner by heritage, Barbara Glass lived in Texas for 20 years and em­braced all things Southwest. She celebrates aging by experiencing it firsthand, and helping the next generations along the way, including her own children and grandchildren. “I try to bring an understanding of the aging perspective within the context of community and nonprofit initiatives”. Part of this engagement is writing about aging in celebratory and thoughtful ways. “I’m living the dream by telling our stories.”

Related Articles

Check Also
Back to top button