Choices

Here it today’s bit of Kerry McKim Wisdom-

Your life is the aftereffect of all the choices you have made.

Boom.

The first major decision in my life was in the Spring of 1993.

It was a period of high fashion consisting of blazers, floral dresses, choker necklaces, boots and scrunchies.

(Okay, that kind of sounds like right now.)

An era was ending as Cheers had their last call.

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And Zack and the gang graduated from Bayside High.

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I was finishing up my eight grade year at Cyril D. Locke Middle School in Billerica, MA and I was preparing to begin my freshman year at Billerica Memorial High School.

My father had worked for the U.S. Postal Service since 1977, the year before I was born.  He had worked in Suburban Boston and he had been promoted to the position of Postmaster.

But there was a catch.

He would be the Postmaster of Little Deer Isle, ME.

So we were going to be moving five hours away to coastal Maine.

I would not be going to high school at Billerica Memorial High School.

I had been bullied in middle school so I wasn’t particularly sad about leaving.  But it was still a period of uncertainty.

The population of Billerica, MA in 1990 was 37,609 and the population of Little Deer Isle, ME in 2000 (couldn’t locate the number for 1990) was 251.

My father had to start his new position immediately so he would work in Maine during the week and come back to Massachusetts on the weekends to see us and to pack up and sell our house.

My father went to the local high school which was on the larger neighboring island of Deer Isle (connected to Little Deer Isle by a causeway) and the school was grades 7-12 with a school population of  about 150.  The guidance counselor of the school was up front with my father and said that there was a high chance that the students wouldn’t accept me because I was not a native of this island.  The guidance counselor recommended that he send me to a larger high school on the mainland because I would have a better chance of fitting in.  She gave my father the course catalogs for her high school as well as the three closest high schools on the mainland.

My father took my guidance counselors concerns seriously. He brought home those course catalogs and told me to look them over which I did.  Then I made my decision.  I told my father I wanted to go to Ellsworth High School.

My decision was based partly on intuition and partly because Ellsworth High School had the better catalog.  (Take away- listen to your gut and marketing matters).

The high school I chose was the furthest away geographically from Little Deer Isle but my mother also wanted to live closer to Ellsworth because there were more stores (i.e. civilization).

As my high school years passed, it was clear that I had made the right decision.  Each school had a reputation and I knew I wouldn’t have fit into schools labeled “crunchy” and “granola”.  (Not that there is anything wrong with that.  It just wasn’t me.)   I fit in the best at my high school, which had the reputation of being a “jock” school. I fit in, even though my classmates teased me (good-naturedly) for having a Boston accent.

My choice of high school affected the friends I made, some of which I am still friends with to this day.  My choice in high school affected my studies because I had some great teachers who exposed me to Broadway musicals, the French language and the concept that the world was a very large and fascinating place.  I also had some not so great teachers that turned me off to math and science.  (I don’t know what high school Kerry would think if she knew that in her 30s, she would go back to school for a degree that required Anatomy and Physiology.  I wish I could tell my younger self that she was smarter than she thought she was and capable of much more than she thought).

My choice in high school affected my social life.  I had to chose between staying busy with sports and work or hanging out in the Burger King parking lot.  Or partying in a gravel pit.  Though I wasn’t cool enough to party in a gravel pit.  I made the choice to run cross country and track, tutor students and participate in French Club.  I also made the choice to participate in class activities like prom committee and I raised money for the Chem-Free party on graduation night.  I also made the choice to work part-time at Shop N Save (now Hannaford).

I definitely left high school with a certain set of experiences that my eight grade self would never have foreseen me having.

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“Mormons or Lobster” A sign in Ellsworth, Maine.

My next major decision was college.  I actually felt like I had less of a choice in choosing a college due to financial constraints.  My older brother had attended college at University of Maine at Orono (UMO) which was a little over an hour away.  I knew if I attended UMO that I would live there for a semester or two and then move home to save money.  I did not want that.

I wanted to be in the city.  Any city.  And if I couldn’t be in Boston, Portland was going to do.  That is how I wound up at the University of Southern Maine.  (USM)

High school had been a learning experience and a culture shock as I adjusted from Suburban Boston to Rural Maine.  But college was definitely more of a shock as I was exposed to so many different ideologies and lifestyles that I had not been used to.  Like high school, I made friends.  Some of which I am still friends with.

I made the choice to study abroad in England the Fall of my junior year.  I almost didn’t apply because I had had a rough year my sophomore year.  I remember telling my father that I couldn’t keep it together here so going to England was probably a bad idea.  My father said that he thought that three months away from USM might be exactly what I needed.  I chose to listen to him and listening to him was one of the best decisions of my life.

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Canada looks really good.  A sign we saw on our way to Ottawa in 2011.

My life had became a series of choices, even if they didn’t feel like choices at the time.

The choice to finish college.

The choice to enter a romantic relationship.

The choice to not return to England after graduation because I had a new boyfriend. (Stupid, stupid, stupid!)

The choice of employment.

The choice of friends and associations.

The choice of my living situations and roommates.

The choice to end my romantic relationships.

The choice to move back home.

The choice to pursue a new career.

The choice to go back to college.

The choice to get involved in politics.

The choice to join the Young Republicans.

The choice to start dating that younger guy in New York even if it didn’t make sense.

The choice to move to New York.

The choice to accept a marriage proposal.

The choice to buy a house.

The choice to start a family.

Where we are in life is based on the results of choices we have made.

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Everything in your life is based on a decision you have made or haven’t made.

However, these decisions have no guarantees.  Good decisions don’t always yield good results.  A good decision may have catastrophic results while a bad decision may surprisingly yield a very positive result.

Sometimes shitty things happen to good people.  We can’t control external factors.

But you always have to make the choice as to how you react to the shitty situation.

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This realization is overwhelming to me.  I used to view life as a series of events that happened to me and that everything was left to chance.

(So I guess Green Day was wrong in Good Riddance when they say that time grabs you by the wrist and directs you where to go…)

I did not realize how much of a role I played in my own life.

This realization comes to be at a time when my life in a crossroads.

In some ways, this scares the shit out of me.

The stable life that I knew is gone.  I have spent the last two years of my life reeling from what happened and I have been struggling to make sense of it.  I have been trying to figure out this “new normal” even though I yearned for the “old normal”.

I had always been one of those people who always had a “two-year plan”, a “five-year plan”, a “ten year plan” and a “twenty-five year plan.”  Now I barely have a “two-week” plan.

My need to have plans was because I didn’t like living in the present so escaped to the future.  But when the future became the present, I would escape further into the future.  I learned the hard lesson that the I need to be in the present because the future that you look forward to may not be there.

I do notice a change in how I choose to live in my life.  I choose to spent less time worrying.  I choose to surround myself with good people and let go of those who treat me poorly.

I choose to try to experience as much as a I can because we aren’t all guaranteed to make it to old age.   Bryon didn’t even make it to middle age.

But I have spent the last two years existing, trying to live even if, at times, I was just going through the motions.  I can’t stay in this state forever.  I am going to need to choose how I am going to live the remainder of my years.

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And I have no clue what the future is going to bring.

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You are free!

We all spent time worrying about things that we can not control.

You can’t control the weather.

You can’t control the temperature or the humidity.  You can’t control the rain or snow.

You can’t control the economy.

You can’t control the government.

You can’t control the housing market.

You can’t control the stock market.  Or the global market.

You can’t control the currency exchange rate.  Or the tax rate.

You can’t control politicians or, ultimately, who gets elected.  You can’t control the political climate.

You can’t control what laws get passed.

You can’t control television ratings or if your favorite show will get canceled.  You can’t control which movies Netflix will remove next month.

You can’t control your family of origin.  You can’t control how you were raised.  You can’t control your family history or your genetics.

You can’t control your past or where you were from.

You can’t control when someone you love dies or when you will feel grief.

You can’t control other people.

You can’t control other people’s intelligence.  People are free to see the world how they interpret it.

You can’t control if people take your advice.  That is up to them.

You can’t control other people’s decisions.  People are free to make good and bad decisions based on the knowledge that they have.  Even if you do not agree with these decisions.

You can’t control people’s loyalty or honesty. You can’t control other people’s values.

You can’t control if people lie or tell the truth.  You can’t control people who manipulate those around them or people who always play the victim.

You can’t control how other people treat you.  People are free to treat people how they see fit.  People are free to hurt you, exclude you and not take your feelings into consideration.  People are free to talk about you behind your back.  People are free to treat you sh*tty.

You can’t control if people forgive you.  That is up to them.

But you, my friend, are free.

You are free to cancel your Netflix because they took away How I Met Your Mother.

You are free to vote for whoever you think the best candidate is and you are free to get involved in whatever issues matter to you.

You are free to associate with those who love you and make you feel better about yourself.  And you are free to disassociate with people who have a negative impact on you.

You are free to hit “reply” or “add friend.”  You are also free to hit “unfollow” or “unfriend.”

You are free to give advice but the recipient can choose not to take it.  And you are free to choose what advice you take from others.

You are free to set your own boundaries and you are free to enforce those boundaries.  You are also free to let people disrespect those boundaries.  The choice is yours. People will only treat you poorly if you let them.

You are free to walk away.  From toxicity, manipulation, and negativity.  You can control just how much bullsh*t you are willing to deal with.

You are free to re-evaluate your life at any stage.  You are free to keep what is working for you and you are free to leave behind what isn’t.

You are free to authentic and real or shallow and phony.

You are free to not give a f*ck about what people think.  You are free to do you.

You are free to invest in your hobbies and interests.  You are free to follow your dreams.

You are free to sell everything you own.  You are free to blow your paycheck at IKEA.

You are free to travel the world or be a homebody.

You are free to cook a gourmet dinner.  You are free to grab dinner at McDonalds.

You are free to give and receive love.  You are free to choose who to give love to and who to receive love from.

You are free to smile and laugh.

You are free to let go of past hurts and anger.

You are free to forgive those who have wronged you when you are ready.  But be careful because you are also free to let past hurts consume your life.

You are free to remember those who have passed however you want to remember them.

You can’t control what goes on around you but, ultimately, you are free to choose how you react to it.