Life Is An Adventure; How Key People Changed My Life

21 Nov

I think everyone has at least one person in their life that makes a comment or a suggestion that changes the course of life.  I know I do. Below are three of my important people.  Two were educators, to which I am sure many can relate.

I grew up in New Jersey, but now live in Kansas.  I did not get here by happenstance.  Rather, it was a series of people who made the right comment at the right time, that changed the direction of my life.

First comment came from Professor Jacqueline Berke at Drew University.  I was taking one of her classes when she told me that I should become a writer.  She loved how I wrote and told me that I had talent.  Up to that time, I never thought of being a journalist.  I did work on the school’s newspaper, “The Acorn,” and I had been an editor of my high school newspaper, “PawPrints.”  But I had not thought of journalism as a career.  Professor Berke’s comments set me on to a path that has guided me for over 40 years.

I applied for graduate school in journalism. I was only going to apply to Columbia University in New York City.  A visit to my high school changed that opinion. I visited with Celia Whitehouse, my English teacher and the advisor for both yearbook and newspaper at North Bergen High School.  I was one of the editors for both these publications.   I told her I was thinking about journalism.  She thought that was a great choice and suggested I apply to the University of Missouri-Columbia’s School of Journalism as well as Columbia university.  She had been a mentor throughout high school and college, so I listened and applied to both schools.

I got accepted to both schools!  Now I had to decide.   My Mom’s comment sealed the deal.  My parents made it clear that they expected me to live at home if I went to graduate school in New York City.  Then my Mom commented, “How will I sleep at night knowing that you will be going to Harlem every day.”  My answer was sincere and to the point.  “I am going to Columbia, Missouri, that way you will not have to worry about me, as you will have no idea what I am doing at night.”

Which is why I attended graduate school in Missouri.  I will admit, it was a major change for me to move from New Jersey/New York to Missouri.   But I survived.

My second day in Missouri, I met the person who would become my husband a few years later.  Being a St. Louis boy, he wanted to remain in the Midwest.  My fate was just about sealed. But one more person had to make an important comment.

We married while he was in medical school.  Then moved to Kansas City where he was a intern then a medical resident. I got a job at a Girl Scout Council working half time as their public relations director and half time as a field advisor.  In this role I would go to different areas within the Council to train Girl Scout leaders, meet with leaders and give advice.  But in reality, I learned as much from the leaders as they learned from me.

One of the areas I was in charge of was Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.  I went monthly to the military base to meet with all the Girl Scout leaders providing information about what was going on in the Council, camping and other activities.  The woman in charge of Girl Scouts at the base was Jane Stilwell, the wife of the base commander.  I can still see her when I close my eyes.

In any case, after three years working for the Girl Scouts, I was going to have to quit my job, which I LOVED, and move to Michigan, where my husband was to begin a fellowship.  I was unhappy.  I wanted him to accept an offer as a general pediatrician and stay in Kansas City. I was miserable and I let everyone know how unhappy I was about moving.

Jane was not happy with me.   At the end of each year on the base, we had a luncheon at Jane’s home, a lovely Victorian home right on the river.  As everyone was leaving, she told me to stay.  Jane then gave me the most important lecture of my life.

She explained that being a military wife, meant you packed up and moved on a moment’s notice.  That not moving could destroy a career.  That I needed to think about what my husband wanted to do in learning more; how my decision, to be unhappy, could change the course of his life and mine.

She then told me that I had a choice in life.  I could look at this move as a prison or as an adventure.  If I chose to look at it as a prison, it would become a prison. But if I looked at it as an adventure, I could have a wonderful time and marvelous life.

She was RIGHT.  From that point on, I decided that Life was an adventure to be lived.  Her words touched my soul. I loved my two years in Michigan.  We traveled to Canada, Chicago and around Michigan. We made new friends. My husband completed his fellowship and we moved back to Kansas.  Jane Stillwell was gone. But her words continued in my mind and heart.

I still live in Kansas.  My husband has had a wonderful career that gave us the opportunity to travel as he gives lectures.  I have had so many adventures!

I still think of Jane’s most wonderful advice.  I tell that to people all the time.  You chose!  You decide if your life will be happy.  You cannot change other people, but you can change your reaction to what happens.  And if you chose to be happy and go on adventures, then you will enjoy the ride.

10 Responses to “Life Is An Adventure; How Key People Changed My Life”

  1. Amy November 22, 2019 at 8:35 am #

    I totally agree with and live by that notion— if we choose to be happy and grateful for what we have, we will be and we will make those around us happier as well.

    I count more than three people in your story—your two teachers and Jane, yes—but also your mother and your husband. If your mother had encouraged you to go to Columbia, think of how different your life would be. And if you hadn’t met your husband while in Missouri, would you ever have stayed in the midwest?

    I think often of these sliding doors (have you seen that movie?)—what would my life be if I had or had not whatever…. Would I have met my husband? Would I have the same children? Would I have made the friends I have? And would I have had the career I had? And then I am even more grateful for all the choices I made and that were made for me.

    • zicharon November 22, 2019 at 9:21 am #

      Exactly. I did not count my husband and mom because they are constants. But the others set me on a path that brought everything together. My original plan on life was to work in a news magazine in NYC. Good thing I am flexible.

      • Amy November 22, 2019 at 10:09 am #

        I always thought I’d live in or near NYC. But I am so glad I ended up in this small town in New England.

      • zicharon November 22, 2019 at 1:11 pm #

        As I have enjoyed Kansas City area.

  2. Ester Katz Silvers November 24, 2019 at 1:28 pm #

    I relate to the idea that we make a choice to be happy or not. Elkana, who just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah, continues to choose happiness despite the 12 (or so) operations he has had.

    • zicharon November 24, 2019 at 1:29 pm #

      Mazel tov on his bar mitzvah. Elkana is a perfect example. And part of that was Deborah!

      • zicharon November 24, 2019 at 1:30 pm #

        Devora. Auto correct changed it.

  3. Ester Katz Silvers November 24, 2019 at 9:53 pm #

    And Golan

  4. Shashi C Ishai January 28, 2021 at 12:18 pm #

    Just happened to read this entry, which was written beautifully and engaged me to think about the “journey”. Of course, I remember Mrs. Whitehouse. In her class, I wrote an essay on how, one day, I wanted to live in (my spelling then) Isreal. She wrote me back, “Before you move there, learn to spell it…But actually, my spelling mistake was actually prophetic. Never did I dream I would move to Israel, permanently. But Israel is real…I guess Ray Farley left and still leaves a motivating factor in my life; still in touch w him. Had him for 8th grade history and homeroom. Despite our youth, he always treated us as adults, and always raised the banner a bit higher to reach. Not fair. I was 4 ‘113/4, but when I became an adjunct, I remembered many of the things, which I passed on to my intl freshman students. My other two most inspirational people in my life were my mom (Belle) and my Grandpa Sam, who died when I was 11, and never got to meet the myth-like man he was. Ellen, thanks for the memories….xxx Shashi

    • zicharon January 28, 2021 at 2:12 pm #

      So glad I gave you a chance to remember as well!

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