Thursday, September 29, 2016

"What ifs" in my life by Marion Ekholm


As writer’s we’ve all dealt with “what ifs” in our manuscripts, including several blogs in Heartwarming.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about “what ifs” in my life. What if I had gone in this direction instead of that? Maybe you’ve had the same thoughts.

When I was very young, I had two loves – writing and drawing. After reading Gone With the Wind, I started my own Civil War story and illustrated it with colorful pictures. My mother always encouraged my art work, but she had a tolerant expression when I read my stories. I served time on the school newspaper and yearbook but couldn’t imagine becoming a writer, certainly not with my typing skills. No one in my family thought I could make a living in either profession, but what if I’d been encouraged in my writing? Instead my teachers directed me to follow art at school. I entered contests and even had an article written about my art projects in the local newspaper.

I was accepted at Pratt in Brooklyn and Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. What if I had chosen Pratt instead of RISD? How different would my life have been? At the time I lived an equal distance from both colleges. A friend was also considering RISD and her father volunteered to take us both to see the place. Although she never attended, our trip gave me the opportunity to actually see the college. But what if my friend had been attending Pratt and taken me to see that college?  Would Pratt be in and RISD out instead of the other way around?

My mother warned me not to plan on four years. My brother graduated from high school in two and his education was a priority. A man had to provide for his wife and family while a woman would be taken care of for the rest of her life once she married. (Let’s all have a big laugh.) That was the prevalent belief at the time so women didn’t need an advanced education. It definitely was my uncle’s opinion. I overheard him ask my father why he would allow me to go  college. My father’s response – that’s what she wants to do. What if I hadn’t had my parents’ support.

My father, mother, me and my brother. What was on his mind when this was taken?
 
What if my brother had decided to go to college? Fortunately, it didn’t interest him. He chose instead to enter the Air Force.

Once I did my full four years and graduated with a degree in Textiles, my roommate and I took off for New York City. Instead of looking for work designing fabric, I took the first job I was offered as a lace designer. Partly it was panic. I needed employment and figured I’d look for something else once I was established. What if I had waited and looked for something more in my field?

Six months into living in Manhattan and I knew no one outside of my friends from school. I began searching for groups to join and joined two. One was a bicycle club that went on 30 mile trips. The other was a church choir. My first night at choir practice, I was asked to participate in the play the group was putting on – “Of Thee I Sing.” The bicycle club was planning their first trip and I had to choose. I chose music.

I’ve never regretted my choices. Art, college or participating in a musical (very far off Broadway). Singing with the church group provided friendships that have lasted to this day. But I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to bicycle on those long trips. “What if…” 

Have you had "what ifs" in your life?

18 comments:

  1. I love to play the "what if" game, Marion. In fact, I just wrote a post for a group blog on the exact top. :) I had a similar experience with my first job...jumping in after college without really knowing if it was what I wanted.

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    1. I believe I read your post, but I already had mine worked out. It's something writer's deal with all the time. I share your work experience. Hope yours turned out okay.

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  2. I too love to play the 'what if' game and I think this imagining must be characteristic of writers in general. But I did enjoy your application of it to your own life, Marion and am tempted to give it a try with mine. Maybe starting with 'what if my college boyfriend hadn't broken up with me?' As amusing as that is to me right now, many many years later, I am happy not to have to mentally pursuer that thread!

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    1. Dating in college had some definite ups and downs.

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  3. Sometimes I think "what if I had gotten married at nineteen after all?" I'm convinced that I would now be living in Phoenix (shudder) and be married with ten kids, and therefore would have been too busy to ever think about writing at all. And we'd probably always be broke, because he was not the kind of guy who would be likely to ever make a lot of money, or to hold onto it if he did. So I'm happy to leave the past in the past. He was a nice guy, but I'm glad he's part of my history, and not my future.

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    1. Sounds like you made the right decision.

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  4. Marion, thanks for the thoughtful post. I've had many 'what if's' in my life, and they're fun to speculate on, but I've been pretty happy with my choices.

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    1. I've been happy with mine, for the most part. Some choices made early on eventually turned sour but I have no regrets.

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  5. No regrets is a wonderful thing, and I love the choices you made. Of course the nice thing about being a writer is you can use your characters to pursue those other forks in the road.

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    1. Very true. Everything that happens in our lives can eventually get in our books.

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  6. I agree with Beth that it's wonderful that you have no regrets, despite considering the what ifs. And your what ifs are fascinating. I remember a previous post in which you included pictures of some of the beautiful lace you designed--in my opinion, such a unique and lovely way to utilize your talent!

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    1. Being a lace designer had its perks. But after that career ended I got back to fabric designs, color combinations and repeats. That career pretty much ended when beautiful, colorful patterns were replaced with the newest fad - dots, stripes and plaids that could be done on a computer.

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  7. Marion - I'm sorry I came to this so late! I thought there wasn't anything up today. Well, that's what you get for being a multi-talented woman! You always wonder if you're following the right talent. For those of us who can't do anything but write, the choice is simple. I did have big plans in my twenties to move to Italy and write the great American novel, then I met Ron, resisted really hard, then finally surrendered. So I wrote happy little romances in Oregon and can't think of anything I wouldn't do again in a heartbeat.

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    1. You have wonderful talents. I love your humor and your joy in life.

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  8. I enjoyed reading this. Although I wouldn't change much, like Muriel, I do wonder "what if" about a few things, although it's probably just as well not to know.

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  9. Marion, I missed seeing this. I popped in a couple of times but nothing new was up. Then I went off with my sis to renew our passports. Well my day was shot. I do a lot of what ifs with my books, but I've never done any connected to my life's choices. I'm not one to spend a lot of time looking back, but choose to consider choices looking forward. Like---what's next in my life. But now you've made me wonder at how many twists and turns I maybe could have taken a different route. Probably many, beginning with my mother telling me--don't get married and have kids, stay single and raise parakeets.

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  10. This post reminds me of an old "Sex & the City" episode -- "Would've, Should've, Could've..."

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  11. Sorry I'm late, Marion, but I had to say that I loved reading this post and what a great photograph! Too funny that your brother looks like his mind is wandering :).

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