Thursday, October 21, 2010

Staring in the Rearview Mirror

I saw a woman the other day who I first met two years ago. She is in her late 20s, a single mom with three kids under 10 years old, works two jobs, and attends a local university. She also attends a once-weekly Torah class at her synagogue. I so admire this young woman for wanting a better life for both her kids and herself.

The first time I met her, she looked exhausted. When I asked why, she told me that she had had to work on her day off and that same evening had to go to her second job. I asked when the last time she’d had eight hours sleep, she said, “I don’t remember.” At that time, I didn’t know about her kids or the university.

When I caught up with her the other day, I asked why she’s doing all this, all at once. She said because she wanted her children to “understand that circumstances are no reason to give up.” Her own mother, she said, was also a single mom, who had joined the military to ensure that her children would not go hungry or unschooled, told her not to think that giving up was the only way out of a difficult life. She said that every time she thought about quitting school or giving up, the words of her mother would come back to her.

My friend lamented some bad decisions she’d made while she was in her late teens/early 20s. Decisions that she is now paying the price for. I told her we al make bad decisions at one time or another - some people do it early in their lives while others of us wait until later, and, in some cases, much later in life, to do it. I pointed out that we all made the best decision we could at the time with the information we had at that time. Looking back, we can see that it was, perhaps, not the wisest decision we ever made, but it was right at the time. She said she hadn’t thought of her “bad” decisions as being the right ones at the time.

My young friend told me, with a shy smile, that she wants to write a book some day. “Not now,” she quickly amended. “Maybe when I get my degree in five years.” Once again, she’s looking into the future, not regretting the past.

As my best friend told me, if you keep staring in that rearview mirror, you’re bound to have an accident because you’re not watching where you’re going.

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