My Mom always used to say “You never know what’s around the bend in the road”. She was quoting Anne of Green Gables, but she could have been making a prediction about the course my life would take. If you had told me where life was going to take me when I was a young and impressionable high school student there’s no way I would have believed you.
To start off with, after a traumatic childhood I was diagnosed with agoraphobia in 9th grade. And yes, there was a time where I easily could have become one of those people who never leaves the house. Thank God for therapy! Because not only did I leave the house, by the summer after I graduated from high school I got a job working as an actor at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. The first bend in my road took me back in time. Didn’t see that coming. But I was at a stage in my life where I was young and foolish and had stars in my eyes and needed to take a chance. So I auditioned, why not, and got a part!
So the road continued on straight, right? Of course not. Midway through college I found myself moving to central Florida for college and in attempt number one to reestablish a connection with my father. And there in Florida I learned that living a few miles from the beach and an hour away from Disney World most definitely does not mean you go there all the time, Florida is way too hot 9 months out of the year, and the Space Shuttle is REALLY LOUD when it launches.
So I stayed put in Florida, straight road, right? Nope. I moved back up to Philly and worked for a while as a teacher’s aide, going back to school for another degree. I loved being a teacher’s aide for a class of 27 seventh grade girls. Yes, I love teenagers, rotten to the core as they are. It was cathartic considering how miserable my own experience at that age had been. And I loved being on a school year schedule again.
So I decided to become a teacher and work with teens, right? Not even remotely. I could have, I saw that road running straight out in front of me. But I didn’t want to be stuck there forever. So I went back to grad school at Villanova and earned a master’s degree in theater because I wanted to teach and run the theater program at whatever high school I ended up at.
And that’s exactly what I did, right? Wrong. Very wrong. Because while I was in grad school my Mom lost her 8 year battle with breast cancer. So what was the first thing I did? Moved to Alabama. Because that makes all the sense in the world, right? Well, it does if you consider that my father lived down there. Attempt number two to reestablish that connection. While in Alabama I took my two bachelor’s degree and master’s degree and, you guessed it, went to cosmetology school and became a hairdresser. Because that’s logical. Not.
So I stayed in Alabama and worked as a hairdresser, right? Oh hell no! I couldn’t stand the South and after three years I figured out that it takes two people to want to reestablish a relationship. I came home to Philly and got a desk job.
And I stayed in that desk job and met a nice man and settled down, right? Well if you haven’t caught on to the pattern here then you haven’t been paying attention. I’ve switched jobs twice since then, and I rather like the one I have now. And I have the worst luck with men in the history of the universe. No, seriously. But while I can’t seem to get a date to save my life I have discovered the gentleman’s sport of cricket. I’ll tell you that story someday because it’s a good one. As a result I spend at least one day per weekend from April to October as the only woman in the company of at least twenty-two men (a cricket team has 11 players). All of the guys on my team are married. And I am now one of a very small handful of cricket scorers in North America (though not professionally certified yet, although I’m working on it).
So if you had told 16 year old recently diagnosed agoraphobic Merry that in twenty years she would be traveling to the UK for a week with a team full of British, Aussie, Kiwi, Indian, and Pakistani men to play cricket, working in a lovely beige cube all day, living in complete independence with two cats, penning juicy romance novels, and writing a blog for a local website she would probably have looked at you funny and walked away fast.
The moral of this story is that life is about grabbing those unexpected opportunities and running with them. There is no law that says that you have to sit at home afraid of everything because you had a rough start. You may start out carrying a lot of baggage but you are allowed to drop it and step away. You are allowed to expand beyond the confines of who you think you should be, and you are definitely allowed to change your mind as many times as you want.
And you never know what’s around the bend in the road.