“Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own.” (Mark Twain)
I began college as an English major. Somewhere along the way, I realized I just wasn’t deep enough (make that insightful enough) to compete with my peers; and at the same time, I realized they were ruining literature for me.
Here are just a few examples.
One class required we recite a poem. I opened a book, picked one that began “Tiger, tiger, burning bright, in the forest of the night…” (You’ve probably heard of it, it’s a pretty famous one.) I was prepared to recite it, but I confess it sounded comparable to how an elementary school student might have done it.
I knew I was in trouble when a young woman in my class stood to recite her poem, and began, “I’ll be doing such-and-such poem in a Meryl Streep, ‘Out of Africa’ accent because…” She went on to explain her deep rationale, but I completely missed her poem because I was so blown away by the fact she had even THOUGHT to do an accent! And that she COULD do an accent! And that she was up there DOING an accent, and didn’t appear to be mortified at all!
Other times we read poems and other literature as a class and discussed them. The things my peers inferred from what appeared to me to be an ordinary story about an ordinary event made me realize English wasn’t for me. Where were they getting their deep thoughts and all of that meaning? I had spent my life getting lost in stories, and simply enjoying the escape into whatever book’s reality I was reading at the time, NOT looking beyond what was right in front of my face for…meaning. Their “meaning” began to ruin it for me.
I found myself beginning to dislike the classics because of the analyses that took place in my college English courses. I started to dread reading (something I’ve always loved to do–I never dreaded reading, reading assignments or writing research papers. I had always enjoyed everything associated with reading and writing.) So I knew it was time to make a change.
I got out. I changed majors.
I tried interior design for a semester because I liked decorating things. Little did I know how much artistic talent was required for a career in that, and unfortunately, I had zero practical art background and no skill. (I drew like a preschooler, and still do.) THAT was a tough semester, with a very benevolent end, when my professors basically gifted me with “C”s–as long as I promised to change majors!
About the only thing I did somewhat decently as an English major was write. As often as not, my papers would be returned to me with lots of red markings and notes by my professors encouraging me to submit the piece to a magazine or newspaper for publication. I finally took an aptitude test. It recommended public relations. I’d never heard of such a thing, but I was told strong writing was necessary for that career, so I signed on. And I never looked back. I had found my thing.
It was very unexpected.
One of the most valuable things I gleaned from my PR education was the counsel, “Don’t be afraid of getting fired.” Fired? I’d never been fired, but I knew enough to dread it and consider it a failure. Instead, my professor taught us getting fired can be the best thing that ever happens to you. In fact, he encouraged us at some point to “fire ourselves” if no one else ever did. He said it was good for every career, and every person, to make a big change at least once in their life. He said oftentimes, the situation you end up with after being fired (voluntarily or involuntarily) is often better than your previous one.
I never forgot that. And I’ve been amazed how well it correlates to the unexpected life. Especially mine.
I was living life, loving being a wife and mother, serving others in my own small ways and trying to contribute to the world…and then one day the bottom fell out of my world. Shawn Merriman revealed the lies and crimes he had been perpetuating for 15 years, he went to prison, and I was left alone to provide for and raise our children; forced to re-enter the workforce. I got fired from my life. And had to find, or create, a new one.
Like networking in the business world that leads to job placement, I didn’t find my new life on my own. I was blessed with tender mercies, miracles and a friends (old and new) who stood by me, encouraged me and helped me begin again.
And now, on this side of it, just 18 months later, I wonder if my unexpected life isn’t one of the best things to ever happen to me? Not because it’s easy, it’s not. Not because it has been fun, it hasn’t always been–especially in the beginning. But because of all that I have learned, the many ways I have grown and the good things that have come to me and my children because of it.
An unexpected life is an abrupt plot twist filled with antagonists that threaten to overwhelm. Sometimes it seems its chapters goes on far too long. Yet if you keep pressing forward through the drama, you’ll make it through some difficult chapters, and the NEW story directions that come unexpectedly into your life can amaze and overwhelm you, this time, in a good way. I believe you can actually end up with a story (and a life) better than it would have otherwise been.
Life is SOME book.
You just can’t put it down.
And like the few special books that have touched me deeply, enough to make tears roll down my cheeks as I read them, I think I’ll cry when it’s over.
“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!’” (Robert Browning)
The Unexpected Life.