While Grace was home last weekend, we talked a lot about choices. She hates to make decisions. Even when we're shopping for clothes, she'll say, "I can't choose." Choices aren't right or wrong, I told her, they're just different paths.
As Grace ventures out into the world, she is facing more and more paths. The problem with choosing one path is that the other path gets rejected. Most of the time, once we start on a path, we can't go back and try the other one again to see how that might have turned out.
I tried to illustrate my point by telling Grace that shortly after I moved to Clearwater, Florida for a job with the Tampa Tribune, I was offered a job at the New Orleans Times Picayune. If I had pulled up roots and moved to New Orleans, my life would have been totally different.
I met my husband at the Tampa Tribune. Marrying this particular man led to the paths that we have taken. The fiesty kids, the soujourn in Michigan and then back to Ohio.
Would I have settled in New Orleans? Would I have developed a southern accent and improved my French? Would I have married a man who lived on a bayou?
I don't look back and wish I'd taken another path.
Rather than being helpful, I think this example terrified Grace. Now all of her decisions seemed to be crucial and life changing. The choice she faced was whether to continue swimming. We avoided the word "quitting."
At college, she spent about 22 hours per week swimming. She wasn't loving it. She stressed about the classes and the labs and the grades. She saw her friends only in passing. She went to bed early and rose in the dark to ride her bike to the pool. She longed to go to swing dance class and spend more time at the theater learning to apply make up and hem costumes.
Her path seemed clear. Swimming, although a part of her life for the past eight years, was not going to be her career. When it stopped being fun, when it stopped being the place she socialized, she needed to let it go.
Letting go is hard.
On Monday, hidden in a stairwell in her dorm, she called me sobbing. "What have I done?" she wailed.
She met with the coach and told him, slipping into tears right in his office. When she asked if she might be allowed to return to the team her sophomore, junior or senior year, the coach said, "We'll have to talk about that."
So she swiped at tears as she crossed campus and searched for a private place to cry. It's not easy to find solitude on a college campus.
As the days have passed, her mood has soared and plunged.
"Sometimes, especially at night, I think what have I done? I have to go swim," she confessed in one whispered phone call. She thinks about going to talk to a counselor on campus, but in the morning she feels good about her decision.
As the day wears on and the darkness slowly surrounds her, this path looks unfamiliar and she wonders if she can still run back and try that other path, the one that she was on for a very long time.
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