Paths In Life : Crossroad Decisions

seawolf

(Composed in response to a storylane.com homework question “What would you share with a 13 year old to help guide them in their life decisions?”.)

“As with a lot of things in life, you need to be at a certain place at a certain time for things to happen – good or bad. It’s interesting to think about what might have happened if you had taken a different path in life — just one small change could make a total change in your life.”

That’s a quote from a fellow mariner and neighbor, Betty Karl at storylane.com now incorporated into Facebook. (Also where my post here originally resided.)

It’s not a new concept, I’ve heard variations before, but this time served as a reminder to take a moment and recall what decisions I made and how they sent me along paths that put me in a certain place and time.

The major cross road decision in my life was my choice of colleges : the University of Virginia.

Actually another major cross road, but not a decision of mine, led me to my father who would significantly influence that decision. In short, I was born in Wiesbaden, Germany to German parents. My parents died when I was young, and my father’s mother, my grandmother, escorted me to the United States where my father’s sister, my aunt, and her husband adopted me.

That husband was to be the one I called ‘Dad’ for the rest of my life. I’d have to think back why he was such a strong advocate of my going to the University of Virginia, but what matters is that he prevailed. And that shaped the rest of my life for the next thirty years.

That decision led to my three years of active duty in the U.S. Navy by way of an ROTC scholarship at UVa.

During a midshipman cruise one summer my ship stopped for R & R at Fredriksted on the northern shores of Saint Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. There I met three ex-patriates from Philadelphia who had left the frenzy of that inner city, and had bought a seaside guesthouse. They were idyllically happy.

Before then I didn’t know alternative lifestyles existed, but for now I had to tuck away the memory and rush feeling I experienced to get back to my “real” life.

During my three years active duty, the Navy also took me to the Mediterranean where I was exposed to more sun, wind and exotic places along many foreign shores.

Back in my ships home port of Norfolk, Virginia I evolved from Navy military to Navy civilian. I was pursuing a successful and proactive career in the Federal government.

One summer, while pursuing some additional academic credentials to further that career, I took notice of a flyer on a college bulletin board and wound up taking sailing lessons from the college’s racing team on the Elizabeth River adjacent to Old Dominion University.

Life was good and predictable.

Then it hit me — I didn’t anticipate it, but I remember the exact moment it hit me — just about ten years from when I experienced it — the memory of those three happy Philadelphia ex-pats on the seashore of Saint Croix. I was high up on a ladder renovating a fourplex and home I had invested in.

And smacked me it did — I had to get back to the Virgin Islands. tuch-a-klas-under-sail

Long story short — I did — ‘lived and sailed there for 21 years.

My sailboat(s), ‘Lark’ and ‘Tuch-A-Klas’ were homeported in Saint Thomas.

Summarizing my path : college decision > University of Virginia > ROTC > U.S. Navy > St Croix USVI | Norfolk VA | St Thomas USVI

That’s the condensed version of 30 years of my life and critical crossroads that led to paths I followed. Plenty of color and detail along the way though, best saved for another chapter or two or three or more to be written !

So how to convey this or lessons learned to a 13 year old ? Be open to possibilities, follow your heart, and make your decisions carefully. I know I did.

“As with a lot of things in life, you need to be at a certain place at a certain time for things to happen – good or bad. It’s interesting to think about what might have happened if you had taken a different path in life — just one small change could make a total change in your life.”

(My Dad — the singular and pivotal influence behind my first major decision that would carry me on this life path — passed away after 90 years of living his own “my way”, on Nov. 18th, 2012 R.I.P.)

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