Photo and hairstyle by the author’s mom.
I just had my annual ophthalmology appointment and made my annual call to my parents to share the doctor’s compliments on the eye surgeries I had as a child. I get to share good news and my parents get to take a victory lap for going against advice and making hard choices that made my life better.
Do you ever wonder which decisions are in your control, which aren’t, and who you have to thank or blame for where you are in your life?
I learned in high school physics class that a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and I’m part of a family that proves that principle daily. We are bad at transitions. Just putting shoes on so I can leave the house is a monumental effort and the lure of fun ahead doesn’t spur me to action. If a small decision like footwear causes me so much friction, how can anyone make giant, life-altering decisions like taking a new job, moving to a new city, having children or getting your kid medical care when the expert opinions say you don’t need to?
I don’t remember but I’ve heard my clumsiness and talent for walking into things was hard to ignore. I’m the second kid, so my parents had an inkling for the normal range of toddler coordination, and my skills didn’t track. Maybe parental intuition was the fuel for action. Maybe not feeling heard made them angry and they dug in. Maybe they were worried I’d always be picked last for playground games. I don’t know why my parents pushed on, but they did, so I got glasses on my second birthday and had my first surgery a few years later. Now I can see when a door opens and sometimes, I even know who opened it.
I was part of the early wave of women who ran up the path Title IX cleared. I started playing soccer in the park on fall weekends when I was 6 years old and as I grew, there were coaches, teams and opportunities. I was able to develop my skills by playing on competitive school and club teams, and all this practice paid off in an open door to college. Looking back, I know the accident of timing was in my favor. I was early enough to have the advantage of opportunity without the disadvantage of competing against the incredible mass of talent coming up behind me.
Would I have had eye surgery and a great result if an incredible doctor hadn’t shown up in our little town as my parents were searching for answers? I don’t know. I do know that luck, timing and support make a difference in how we find opportunities and decide which path is best.
When I had an idea for an article about spoon carving, what would be my very first article for the Anchor, I offered to write it and then backtracked in a moment of self-doubt. I wondered if there was someone with more writing experience who should do the story. A friend listened and considered and told me to step up. She encouraged me to write the article. The Anchor opened a door for me; a friend pushed me through. And the good folks at the Anchor opened another door and took a chance on me when they asked if I wanted to write a regular column.
Choices are complicated. There are a dizzying number of decisions to make, and you can’t give yourself a break and opt out of decision-making since refusing to decide is, in fact, a choice. Everyone knows it’s much easier to say no to an opportunity than to go for it. If you don’t make a decision, you might get to stay at rest. You get to stay home and that’s not bad because home is great and you don’t have to put your shoes on.
But opportunities, when you can spot them, are great too. And though we don’t have control over all the forces conspiring to change our lives, we do have the ability to see when a door opens and look for reasons to step through. And when it’s a window that opens, we can ask a friend for a boost and climb in.
To all the parents who make doors and windows for their kids, you’re doing heroic work. And for all the moms out there, please enjoy your victory lap this Mother’s Day.
Erin O’Mara lives in Harpswell and serves on the Harpswell News Board of Directors.