Life Takes Strange Turns
Barbara Mayer, OSB
Editor's note: Sisters from Mount St. Scholastica write a weekly column titled "View from the Mount" for our hometown newspaper, the Atchison Globe. This column appeared in the Sept. 10, 2016, edition of the Globe.
During a conversation one night, a dinner guest made a comment that I’m sure is true for a lot of people. “I didn’t accomplish any of the things I set out to do in my life, but the way it turned out is better than I could have chosen.” He went on to say he had wanted to be a priest, but that didn’t work out. Instead he got married and had four wonderful children. He joined the army and wanted to be a photographer. Instead he was put in the customs division which turned into his lifetime career. After 15 years of marriage, he and his wife divorced and she remarried. Through that experience, he learned a lot about himself and became a more accepting, loving person. Then after his wife’s second husband died, they got together again and developed a whole new relationship.
When we are young we think we know what we want to do in life, but usually we are immature and naïve. Sometimes we make the wrong choices and either learn to live with them or eventually change direction. Often we discover hidden talents or aptitudes as we grow older. At times, opportunities open up for us that we never would have dreamed of, but we just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
During my high school days I dreamed of being a writer, but then became a sister in a teaching order. When I realized teaching was not my gift, I looked at other options and eventually worked on a Catholic newspaper. I enjoyed doing interviews and writing a column on scripture readings. Eventually, I became editor of a newsletter for an international organization and learned new computer skills. Later I began editing a religious journal and our community news magazine, which combined my editorial and writing interests.
Some of these were my choices, but many of them just happened or evolved. I am happy that I could combine my interest in writing with my religious vocation. I’ve had some ups and down, but most of the time I feel blessed with the experiences I have had. When times were difficult, there always seemed to be people around to help and support me in my struggles.
I was reminded of how blessed I am when a friend of mine shared her life story. She experienced physical abuse, foster homes, adoption by a depressed mother and an alcoholic father, an unwanted pregnancy at age 16, and a disastrous marriage that ended in divorce at age 19. Eventually she met a wonderful man and is now happily married with two grown children and a grandchild.
I’m sure my friend would agree with our dinner guest about not doing what he set out to do, but that life turned out better than he could have planned it. Her childhood traumas have made her a very sensitive, loving mother and friend.
Life is pretty unpredictable for most people. Even if we follow our dream, we don’t know where it will lead. Sometimes we fail or meet obstacles, but when we realize that we are not in charge, and that God wants our good even more than we do, we can find an inner peace amid the disappointments. Prayer and good friends are the best allies we can have when our hopes are dashed. That saying, “When you don’t hit the ball as far as you aimed to, learn to slide” is good advice. It could make life a lot more fun and rewarding.