Choices: Are You Proud of Yourself?

Stormy Weather.

Stormy Weather.

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Choices we make on an average day: 312 (a purely scientific number)

Packets of oatmeal I eat each morning: 2

One day the summer after I graduated from college, I stood in the warehouse of a special effects design studio.

There were masks, molds, goopy goop, clay and long tables filled with evidence of an artist at work.

I never really knew the boy/man who owned it, the one who created monsters and zombies for movies. He had sat nearby in my high school homeroom each day without us ever exchanging more than a “good morning.” But my mom knew his family through her work at the bank, and she scored us a tour through his little shop of horrible, ghoulish creations.

Back in high school, homerooms consisted of kids with last names alphabetically similar to our own. One girl with my same last name sat in front of me for four years in a row. She was a cheerleader who wore sweat pants with words printed across the bum. She had an annoying habit of announcing, “I am so proud of myself!” several times in the 15 minutes we spent desk-to-desk.

At a time when “preppy” was considered so mid-1980s, one of the boys, a football player, wore a neatly ironed button-down shirt most days. Sometimes in a pastel pink.

One kid who sat nearby revered the band Rush and smelled of marijuana at an hour of the day when my Wheaties were just barely making an appearance in my belly.

So by the time I was post-college, the guy who always sat quietly at the back of the room who created this whole Hollywood life for himself without fitting into the expected college-grad school-corporate-job mold surprised me. As he proudly showed off his portfolio with professional photos of grisly masks used in real, mass-produced films, I wondered: what had I done during my pizza-eating, falling-in-love, broadcast-journalism-unpaid-journalism-internship college career?

I was so predictable.

Not long after leaving the horror fest, I started waiting tables and met our high school’s former mascot. After college, instead of getting a job in his field (so predictable!), he decided to get a job in Tahiti at a Club Med there. He taught windsurfing.

There may have been a low point that day when I was forced to carry out 12 Diet Coke refills in a row. Windsurfing. Tahiti. Really?

Recently, I had lunch with a friend who wondered why she wasn’t as successful as some of her friends, friends who had traveled the world teaching in Africa, hosting national news broadcasts and writing stories about Haiti and its recovery.

I swallowed my bite of barbecue sandwich and eyed her across the table.

Do they have two gorgeous children? I asked her. When they fly home from Africa, do they have a partner to tell about their terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day?

No, she said. No, they don’t.

And they are probably perfectly happy with that fact, I said. But she wouldn’t be; she made the choice years ago to take a different path.

I am reminded almost daily of the paths we take, the choices we make in our lives that create unique selves. Our choices add up to lots of stories, to a whole life filled with color.

Some things we can’t control: illness, acts of nature, deaths of family members or close friends.

But the things we can control; what of those? Are you making the choices you will be happy with years from now?

What is one choice you have made lately that makes you feel proud of yourself?


45 thoughts on “Choices: Are You Proud of Yourself?

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    As you know, I made a choice to take time off and pursue writing. Who knows where it will lead, but I’m enjoying every minute of it. And don’t think a day goes by where I don’t realize how lucky I am to be able to do this right now. That wasn’t always the case and may not be the case in the future.

    I always enjoy reading your posts, Anne (though you can probably guess that by how quickly I get over here 😉 ).

  2. Melissa says:

    Oh the “what if’s” and “why didn’t I’s.” Those can bite you in the butt when you least expect it. Usually when they happen, I look around at what I have because of the choices I made and I think I came out on the right side of everything.

  3. One of the reasons I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook is I am constantly reminded of the friends who stayed in the hometown and see each other all the time. I feel like an outsider looking into their living rooms. However, you are right. I have seen things and done things that they have not.

    My choices:
    One year ago, I chose to read your blog post. I am a better writer and person for it. 😉

    More recently, I chose to create a real plan that, with a little luck, will put my writing into the hands of readers looking for a unique fantasy read.

  4. robincoyle says:

    Thinking . . . thinking . . . thinking . . . nope. Can’t come up with one.

    • I feel like I’m stalking you Robin, I just commented on your blog, then came to this blog next and here you are again! Or maybe you’re stalking me, but doing it very cleverly by being the one in front…

      Oh sorry Anne, this is your blog, we should be talking about that, let’s see…recent choices that I’m proud of…nope, I’ve got nothing either!

    • annewoodman says:

      All bad choices, Robin? Even the ones where you sent care packages to your daughter’s unit? Or attending a writing conference where agents loved your novel? Hmmm. Methinks you tell a tall tale. ; )

      • robincoyle says:

        Here is another bad choice I made . . . agreeing to play Words with Friends with you. What was I thinking?

      • annewoodman says:

        Pish tosh, Robin. It’s called luck. If it makes you feel any better, I am failing miserably at every single game I play with another writing friend. I swear that I’m getting all vowels with an occasional P. ; )

      • robincoyle says:

        I’ve had terrible letters in all the games we played . . . all one-pointers, all vowels, no vowels, no place to play, etc. That’s me making excuses.

  5. jmmcdowell says:

    Hmm, I think you might soon find the conversations between two of my characters could have inspired this post…. 😉 Whether the novels find a receptive audience or not, I’m proud of myself for sitting down to write them and (ultimately) send them out into the world for others to read.

  6. LOVE this!
    Most recently I’m pleased I never gave up, although that one time at 2:30am I wanted to. I’ve learned you can’t get off the spaceship. Make fun of it. Curse. Write stupid sh*t. Keep moving forward! ON! ON!

    • annewoodman says:

      Or write a few blog posts about it, right? Or swim away, very fast.

      • damn skippy!
        Seriously, tho, as in every journey, I’m learning a lot about life and myself. I’m very grateful for that.

      • annewoodman says:

        I think learning about yourself is what comes out in the blogs I read. We are all on this life journey, learning different things at different times. I’m glad to read about everyone else’s experience and share a little taste of my own. Thanks for reading, Terri Lee!

      • Absolutely – I learn about other’s lives and get different perspectives and ideas. I want, as I grow older, to look with new eyes. I haven’t done that lately and I feel it. However — I am finally caught up quite a bit with work, and the wonderful cold weather makes it a perfect day tomorrow to curl up with my laptop and catch up on the blogs I follow and also find some new blogs. Life is like waves – you move forward, you move backward, you pause, you regroup, you move forward again.

  7. This post made my heart happy. I, too, have friends who seem to have done everything. I was (and am) impressed by what they achieve, but I’ve never been jealous because, well, that just ain’t who I am. I much prefer having a great wife and son.

  8. E says:

    I am most proud that I got up the courage to go over to a striking young women one day at the pool to ask her if she would run with me! 🙂

  9. the choice to read this post – very satisfying

  10. Amy Mak says:

    How interesting you should post this; I’ve been brewing about it for days after a recent howling fest about my life (it’s all good 🙂 I’m glad for all my choices, I really am. I wanted to be a mother and I’m so glad I opened the computer one day and started typing…

    • annewoodman says:

      I’m glad that other people have howling fests about their (good) lives, Amy. I had one myself this week. ; ) I’m glad you started typing, too; I love reading your posts.

  11. Hi, Anne. I think the hardest thing about choices is not always that you reap what you sow but that you don’t know what they will eventually lead to. It seems easy to make a choice with an expected outcome, but as we know, we’re often surprised at how it all turns out.
    P.S. I’m reading along with you and sorry that I haven’t been in touch.
    Thanks for your great work!

    • annewoodman says:

      Maureen, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head… that’s why “two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” rings so true at all ages. If we knew precisely that choice A would be “bad,” and choice B would lead to “good,” I think everything would be quite clear.

      I’m enjoying reading about your fun choice to live in Grenoble! The Paris post was a good one. ; )

  12. I am glad I bucked the system and home schooled my daughter instead of subjecting her to the gauntlet of middle school. Best risky decision I ever made.

    • annewoodman says:

      Oh, those parenting decisions! Those are the ones that can keep you up at night for weeks. I’m glad things are going well… I usually feel that once I’ve made a choice, things start looking up. (P.S. I’m not sure I could teach some of the stuff my son is learning in 6th grade. Good for you!)

  13. lauralanni says:

    Hi Anne,

    I think I might be too old to be proud of myself. I try each day to make choices so that I can look myself in the eye in the mirror. Do unto others…if you know what I mean.

    At this moment, I am glad I made the choice to read your blog. Your description of homeroom brought me back a few decades. I can also picture who sat where and other odd details.

    Thanks for making me think.

    ps – you eat TWO oatmeals each morning? Choking down one is enough for me 😉

    • annewoodman says:

      Ha! I could probably eat three oatmeals, but I hold myself back. ; )

      I think that’s a good plan… to do unto others, etc. Always a good choice. Especially if you’re good to yourself.

      Ah, homeroom… it seemed like I would always be there, sitting and waiting for life to start. And now, looking back, of course, I realize what a small slice of life it was.

      Thanks for stopping by. ; )

  14. Before I met my wife I didn’t have a passport. Now I not only have a passport, but also we have visited 18 countries in the past two years. That has been quite satisfying.

    • annewoodman says:

      Wow, Mike. That’s impressive. Sounds like marrying your wife was quite a good choice. ; ) I’m continually amazed at how much can change in just one 12-month period.

  15. Baking school. And the decision/choice to be okay with whatever happens in the next few years. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been unsure about what will happen next – particularly with regards to my career path after graduation. I’m a planner, a list maker. And I’m not afraid. I’m totally excited.

  16. 4amWriter says:

    I used to stew over the poor choices I made that drove me away from a better, more promising writing career. I’m less hard on myself these days, because I finally understood why I did what I did.

    At the time I thought I was doing the right thing, making the right choice. Hindsight is always 20/20 and the best we can hope for is to learn from our mistakes, or better yet, to understand WHY we made the decisions we did so as not to repeat history.

    • annewoodman says:

      Well, we also have to realize that those choices may have netted us other, wonderful things (kids, husband, travel, a different career–not better or worse, just different).

      And you’re a well-respected blogger, something I bet you never foresaw back in 1995. ; )

  17. I know this is quite a deep post, but I couldn’t get over the line: ‘One kid who sat nearby revered the band Rush and smelled of marijuana at an hour of the day when my Wheaties were just barely making an appearance in my belly.’ Such a great way to make the point by the contrast between marijuana and breakfast. As for choices, I remember spending a lot of my life wishing I could stumble across a time machine. But these days I think, if I went back and changed those things I wanted to change I wouldn’t be here, right here right now, and that I’m happy with. Lovely post Anne – as always your observations really transport me! 😉

    • annewoodman says:

      I always wanted a time machine, too, but mostly so I could check out all the times long before my own. I knew that by altering my own choices, I’d probably screw something else up. ; )

      Thanks for reading, Gabriela. And P.S., I loved the fact that you shared your chocolate cupcake recipe over at Vanessa’s site… I’m impressed!

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