Having made many important life decisions, I can say that one early moment changed the course of my life.
My college professor told his students that to succeed in the commercial design industry, it would be necessary for them to move to a large metropolitan area such as New York City or Chicago for the best job opportunities. His advice was not what I wanted to hear. I lived in a sleepy Florida town and was not likely to run off to another part of the country to get a job.
But then I lost my job at a fast food restaurant. I was 19 years old, newly unemployed and had no money to continue college. To make matters worse, I was asked to leave home. What was I to do? A friend of my mother suggested I join the military. I thought about that. It couldn’t be that bad, could it? My dad had been in the Navy and he spent ten years in military service.
Looking back, I’m surprised at how quickly I took her suggestion and enlisted in the Navy. I was confused though when I looked through the bus window at the Greyhound station and saw Mom crying as I was leaving for boot camp. Didn’t she want me to leave?
Since the day I made the decision to leave home to join the Navy, fate forced me to face other important decisions. I met Richard and had to decide 1) to leave the Navy and marry him or 2) remain in the Navy as a career sailor. Richard told me he would not follow me around the world as a Navy husband.
I chose Richard and a life in New Jersey.
Continuing on this road, I fell into a banking career – not something I would have chosen, but it was a good life while it lasted.
I lost Richard to cancer after 20 years with him and I don’t regret the decision I made to marry him. My decision to remain in New Jersey led me to an unexpected meeting with my 2nd husband Stephen. When he asked me to marry him just weeks before his death from cancer, the decision was easy to make. I only wish I had had more than four years with him.
I now have friends and family I would not have had if I had never left home. I can attribute my professional success to relocating to the Northeast. I finally got my college degree – in History, not Commercial Design.
I recently made a visit to the sleepy Florida town of my youth after 30 years away. While I enjoyed seeing my old home, I knew I made the right decision when I left home to join the Navy. I am where I am meant to be.
But my professor’s advice haunts me to this day. I live just a half-hour outside of New York City.