Beth Lee-Browningby Beth Lee-Browning

What started as a clever ad campaign for V8 vegetable juice somehow became a phrase synonymous with “Wow, if only I had known, I’d have made a different choice.”  Sometimes we don’t feel the accompanying thunk on the head until days, weeks, or maybe even years later and often times because we weren’t aware that there was a choice.

Our society is obsessed with “making it big” and we’ve left little to no room for the pursuit of dreams among the talented but undiscovered artists, athletes, chefs, and designers that surround us. We convince ourselves that our day jobs are all that we are and all that we can be.  We buy into the notion that if we can’t “make it big,” there’s no point in trying and we forget that as children we once knew how to dream.  We “grow up” and we do the responsible thing, we put our dreams on the “back burner” and promise ourselves that someday we’ll find our way back to them.

Often if we’re brave enough to admit our true desires we’re met with responses such as, “Why would you want to do ‘that’?” and with good intentions we’re reminded that “there’s no money in it,” “shouldn’t you focus on your career?” and “it’ll take away from family time.”  I think the most dampening of all is the one spoken without looking up from behind the newspaper, “oh really, uh huh, yeah that’s nice.”

I was raised during a time and age in which pursuing a practical curriculum of studies followed by an equally practical and hopefully financially rewarding career may not have been expected, but it was encouraged.  I attended college as a part of one of the first generations in which a career for a woman was not perceived to be limited to teacher, nurse, or wife.  Like most seventeen year olds I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and in 1979 anything in the Business College was the degree of choice for those of us without an obvious gift or burning passion.

Unfortunately when I graduated  or more specifically after one more summer of life guarding jobs were far and few between, truth to be told, I hadn’t looked very hard.  Between believing I had landed the perfect husband-to-be and in spite of what I thought my aspirations “should be,” I was relieved to think that my degree was something I wasn’t going to need.   My thoughts hadn’t moved beyond enjoying one last carefree summer and finding a job to pass the time while I waited for his December commencement ceremony.  I was certain the summer would end with the question “will you marry me?” and not with the words “I’m sorry, I’ve met someone else…”

Heartbroken and irrational I somehow managed to convince myself that selling disability insurance door to door in rural Nebraska was a good opportunity and a way to move on.  During those brief months, I experienced everything from being invited into a stranger’s home for roast beef and mashed potatoes, to being chased off of a porch with the wave of a shotgun, and ending up covered in mud while the only other woman on the team gunned it while I tried to push her car out of the bottom of a farmhouse drive in the pouring rain.

I’ll never forget her, I was twenty-something, she was forty-something and I think we were equally confused.  We laughed until we cried and swore we would write a book about our experiences.  We actually sat down at the typewriter (I’m dating myself) and started composing on more than one occasion, but one reason after another got in the way and before long we convinced each other that it just wasn’t “practical” and we went our separate ways.

It was the last time I talked or thought about writing anything other than a business presentation, a cover letter, or an email until I heard about a place called “Sometime Isle.”  I heard about this “island” while attending a book signing and luncheon at a small café in Dorset Minnesota.  I found myself surrounded by ardent fans of the author’s series about life on the plains.  They alternated between hanging on her every word and peppering her with questions about what would happen next to their favorite characters – their friends.

I didn’t connect with the personalities she described from her stories and I was relieved when she moved from her books to her personal experiences because that meant the lecture was drawing to a close.  Suddenly I found myself listening and not daydreaming.  She spoke of career, marriage, and motherhood; she revealed the dreams that had been tucked away with prayers that ended in “Sometime I’ll…”  She provided inspiration with her story of taking a risk, attending a writers conference on a whim, and becoming a published author after she turned fifty.

I surprised myself when I felt my hand raise in response to her question, “Do any of you have a secret dream, have you ever said to yourself, ‘sometime I’ll write a book, sometime I’ll paint a landscape, sometime I’ll take a cooking class, sometime I’ll….” I recalled the book I’d started twenty five years before as well as the painting, drawing, and piano lessons I’d started and stopped in between, the dozens of times I had used that phrase.  She dared each of us to consider taking one small step toward moving off of Sometime Isle.

I’ve thought about that day often and wondered how someone so different from me could have made such an impact on my life. Since then I’ve taken half a dozen writing classes, started a blog and have more than a few ideas for a book; I even pulled out my sketch pad and am taking a drawing class.  I may never have a book published, but I’ll write one.  I may never make a dime pursuing my passions, but I’m devoting time to them.

Every time I hear myself say “Sometime I’ll…”  I think of her story and remind myself that it’s never too late.

 

This is a reprint from Beth Lee-Browning’s personal blog, it’s a whole new world,  originally posted March 22, 2012.

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 Beth Lee-Browning lives outside of Philadelphia, is a transplanted Midwesterner, and a mid-life woman who is discovering the joy of living life to its fullest and under her own rules. She chronicles her adventures from the ordinary to the unusual with keen and thought provoking observations, a unique wit, sensitivity and an underlying theme that “everything is going to be all right.”

Read Beth’s blog at it’s a whole new world.