With one of my kids, recently grown and flown (Thing1), and the other, starting to contemplate his life outside the nest (Thing2), I find myself thinking more about what might have been if I made different choices.
I used to wish I had made different choices — better choices.
I am not naïve enough to think of my life is anything other than a journey filled with missteps, redirections, and spectacular mistakes of my own making. Some of those mistakes were due to circumstances I couldn’t control for a long time, but others were simply bad choices.
When I was Thing2’s age and going for college visits, I desperately wanted to go to art school. I let a tough but fair portfolio critique and well-meaning but off-target input from my parents derail further attempts for art school or even a fine art major at a college.
Even now, however, a conversation with one of the art professors at the school I did briefly attend for another major rings in my head. “You should do this only if you need to paint,“ he said. I needed to paint then and still do.
If I had been stronger or braver, I would have done more of the type of drawing that would’ve led to getting into those schools. If I had been more sure of myself, and willing to confront my bipolar disorder, (or even realize what it was) I had a younger age, I might have stood my ground and picked the fine art major.
But even as I think about those mistakes, I don’t have regrets. Those mistakes inform the advice I give my kids.
My mistakes eventually brought me back to art. They brought me to teaching, which is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life even as it is shaped by, and then informed by creativity. Mistakes they brought me to these conversations with my chicks as they are leaving the nest.
Without my mistakes, I wouldn’t have the big guy I married. I wouldn’t have an adult child, who comes home to geek out with me over the latest happenings in Tech. I wouldn’t have a soulful, introspective Thing2 who is a sounding board for his friends, and art critic at large.
It makes me realize that the best advice I can give to my kids is to start making their mistakes as they find and live their truths.