My follow-up on “The Survival Guide for Old Age” is almost complete. The first sequel covered most of the points of interest to me and my age group. In this final work, Sequel #2, the scope widens. Looking back, I recognize that over and over as I wound my way through life, big changes entered the picture.
In the summer of 1937 my Dad moved our family from the farm to the city. We traded the freedom and expanse of the country for a small city apartment – and the opportunity to continue our education. My sister started grade 10 in a High School. I walked a block down a city street, and enrolled in grade 9 in a Junior High School. The country one-room school’s enrollment was about 14 children. My new school was an old three-storey brick building with 400 students! I was in shock – as if I were in a free-fall over a cliff. At any age, drastic change can be traumatic. It takes time to adjust.
I was on a steep learning curve, that first year in the city, but the stars were in my favour. My home-room teacher was an excellent educator, and a caring and compassionate person. No one in his classes went without help and understanding, including myself. With his guidance I learned to adjust to the changes. He also opened my eyes to the endless opportunities education offered, and excited me about further scholastic ventures. My parents were delighted.
In the midst of all the strangeness, I slowly found a group of girls I liked and with whom I felt comfortable. This friendship grew over the year, and when High School followed, we entered that new arena as a group. This lesson accompanied me throughout my life. No matter where you go, the people you enjoy and need will be there – just keep looking. Sort of a “Look and ye shall find” philosophy. Works even in old age!
The last thing I remember about that year was the change in my attitude about my new surroundings. The move from the familiar farm to the strange city was something I dreaded. Before the year ended, the new surroundings were stimulating and enjoyable. Things don’t always work out that way. Care is important. I could have become an addicted smoker as were some of my fellow students. Or, I could have learned the art of “snitching” candy from an open bin while a partner bought a chocolate bar. Both of these activities were considered both smart and acceptable. Most adults would agree they are dangerous steps down a path leading to trouble. The line in our class—between those who would do these things, and those who would not—was clear. There is no doubt in my mind that my family’s teachings and practices gave me the strength to avoid the temptations that existed – as temptations always do.
The next big change was when I left home and registered as a student at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton. It was in September of 1940. Now a young adult, I found this change not as traumatic. My sister started university in Edmonton at the same time. Having a family member close at hand was comforting.
Speaking of my own state of mind, I felt quite adult. I was self-aware to a limited degree. I recognized a few of my characteristics, some positive, some negative. On the positive side was that, this time, change seemed stimulating. I expected to enjoy my life at university, and did, and that included making friends. It was clear what my scholastic interests were and when the curriculum allowed choice, I jumped at the chance. I knew what I loved to study and chose those courses without hesitation.
On the negative side, I still battled recurring bouts of insecurity. I craved verbal assurance, and continued to be impatient – with myself and with others.
How could both sides be so clear? Very easily it seems. That’s life – two sides to every coin. I was gradually learning to accept myself. It appeared to be life – and I just had to deal with it! Some unseen force seemed to be saying: “Deal with it. If you don’t, be prepared to pay the price.” Did I think it out like that? Of course not, but I did begin to realize that the closer I came to making good decisions, the better things went, and the happier I was. Not exactly rocket science, but growing up does not happen overnight.
Not overnight – but by three years later I had changed a lot. While I don’t spend much time reliving the first year’s shaky scholastic average, some of my later decisions were much sounder. It was then I formed a bond with a young man. In 1945 we married, and had 65 years together. Life continued to challenge us, we continued to learn. Together, we made many good decisions and some poor ones, but our decision to marry was the best of the pack.
Do I have advice to give to generations who follow? Very little. There is no fool-proof map for life. Each person is unique. Consider: Each person has a different background. Our world has countless races, beliefs, religions, talents, interests, goals, education levels and economic realities. Has life taught me anything that might be universal? I doubt it, but there is something else I can share: my beliefs. They form the creed which guides my life. This may be of interest or use to some. It follows:
I believe that at any stage of my life, I have the right to expect these things, and the duty to do what I can to make them happen:
…Believe life is meant to be enjoyed.
…Know myself. Recognize my faults, know my strengths, and always be honest with myself.
…Strive to reach my best potential. Celebrate my successes, accept my defeats, and move on.
Charge on, my friends, wherever you are on life’s path. It’s worth the effort, I promise you, and …… Enjoy!