When I was in my teens I was sure God had great plans for me, I kept looking and listening for a clue so I’d know which way to go. Nothing jumped out at me. My dad gave the thumbs down to everything that I was interested in. I started working after school and on weekends in my junior year and going to summer school to finish faster. High school was not exciting or stimulating and the classes were boring. Finally graduation came…..and went. I started college and still nothing appeared, it was just more of the same. I partied on weekends, went to class, and went to work. Then it happened, I got pregnant and got married. Contrary to all the statistics and great pronouncements from the gurus, it was the most incredible thing I had ever done even if I was 17 at the time. THrough the next 8 years my life was filled with love, diapers, hugs, nursing pads, slobbery kisses and normal ones, even hot passionate ones. They were the best years of my life and I was awestruck with my incredibly wonderful marriage and life. Then the bottom fell out, Paul’s plane was shot down over Laos during the VietNam conflict. In about a month congress declared the crew killed in action. My mission became doing the best I could for our children, by then we had two sons and a daughter. I still had something nagging inside me that said there was a purpose for me out there and after a year I went back to school to finish a degree. I decided on a composite major in social studies with a goal of going on to law school but after a couple of years and getting to know some law students and lawyers, I realized my glamorous vision didn’t match reality and wasn’t what I wanted to spend my life doing. Sure the money looked good at that time but that was never my goal. So I looked around at what I could do with the degree I’d been working on and decided to get a BA in secondary education. I loved the course work and the people I met, it was exciting and fulfilling. Then I graduated and got a job right away. I loved the kids and the mental challenge everyday to find a way to energize them. It was the early 70’s and I was taking home $434. a month. By the end of the year I realized that if I were ever going to be able to give my children more than the necessities I was going to have to do something else. I had no mentor, my principal was an authoritarian automaton and the other teachers in my area were a mix of self assigned failures who hated what they were doing. Some drank on the job and some yelled and pounded their desks. I started job hunting that summer and soon fund a trainee position with an insurance compass ad double my salary as a teacher. I agonized over the decision, I really loved teaching and felt I was doing something worthwhile but in the end I made the move. Career wise it was the right move. I spent the next 28 years climbing the ladder of success going from and annual salary of $9600. to over $96,000. During that time I went back and got a MA in Public Administration and the kids grew up. All the while I kept thinking “Is this what it’s about, is this all there is?” I felt good about what I’d accomplished but dissatisfied with life and doing something meaningful. I’d failed at two attempts at remarriage, poor choices I told myself, but I know better now….I’ve learned a lot from all the adversity life has thrown at me and I have a third son as a result of one of those “mistakes”, who I wouldn’t trade for all the answers the universe holds. Somewhere on the journey I decided to retire. I thought I might find my “calling” and travel, maybe paint or write travelogs. But life wasn’t done with me yet and about that time my mom could no longer live alone due to dementia and macular degeneration and my second son had been unable to work consistently for about a year due to depression and the impact on his family. I didn’t want mom to have to go to an assisted living facility, she wasn’t try social and in her current state of mind wouldn’t handle it very well. So I bought my son’s house and remodeled it for mom and I to live there with him until he could get on his feet and for as long as she had left. That was 2006. We’re still all together and now my grandson has moved in with us too. Through all of this I realize I’ve changed. Instead of looking outside for my purpose, my mission, I’ve been looking at what life has dealt me and what I’ve needed to learn from all of this. I’ve become much more patient, more tolerant, I’ve come to know that there are few things in life that matter enough to lose a relationship over and that some relationships were never meant to be. I’ve been teaching for the last 5 years and find a lightness in my heart and a delight in my soul when I see students’ succeed. Goals and purpose is not about big things, it’s about how we handle all the challenges along the way and who we become because of it. I’ve realize that who we become as we age is a reflection of what we have learned and how we have responded to the challenges we have endured. We’re like a tea bag in a cup of hot water, the longer it sits there without any change, the more steeped we become in our narrow limited persona, the selfish child becomes the Scrooge of his later years, but we have many opportunities to take that bag out and change the water and become the best we can be.