The Journey

Sometimes you don't see where the path leads and you have to overcome adversity along the way.

Sometimes you don’t see where the path leads and you have to overcome adversity along the way.

The way we view relationships and dating experiences changes over the lifespan. Priorities (at least for me) have changed dramatically. I couldn’t count the times I’ve been accused of being picky.   I don’t deny it and furthermore, I make no apologies. If past relationships have brought you more grief than joy, it is time to re-evaluate your choices. The experiences that brought me to “pickiness” are reflected in the journey.

I was the typical teenager in many ways; I was far too concerned with being liked and popular. Still I was the sheltered small town girl and was never part of the “popular” crowd at school. I made friendships as a result of being in band and chorus, school plays, and was even editor of the school paper. My mother admonished me to “be a lady” every time I left the house. Misbehaving was not an option.

Before age 20, I still believed in the fictitious “white knight” that unfortunately never came. I dreamed of being loved, cherished and protected.   I still clung to romantic notions of finding a soul mate. I was married by my senior year of high school (in what I perceive to have been an arranged marriage).  It was a terrible mistake that has set the stage for my entire adult life. The young man had asked my parents but never actually asked me. My parents had said yes and both had signed consent (even though I never asked them). He bought the rings. How does a 16 year old back out of that?   The blessings of that relationship were my two children.

By age 27 I was a single parent with only a high school diploma struggling to raise two children without monetary support. (Times were much different then in terms of child support laws.) The vows we took on our wedding day had been broken, but not by me. I was crushed more by the betrayal of a close friend, who had also made a bitter mistake. But that is someone else’s journey to share.  There is no room for bitterness or malice in my heart.  This event redirected the journey for me and my children into uncharted territory.   Two small children depended on me for their survival, so there was no room for failure.  Survival was a struggle for the 3 of us.  We learned that, by sticking together, we were invincible…..with the blessing of Jesus to accompany us on the journey.  We had many heart-to-heart family meetings as a threesome when things were really tough.  As children, they didn’t realize how many bridges to the future we had to build along the way.  That’s one reason why my favorite poem is “The Bridge Builder.”  It so perfectly symbolizes the journey of overcoming adversity.

We were a close knit threesome and that became my adult identity

We were a close knit threesome and that became my adult identity

In my 30’s, harsh reality left little room for dreams. I was about the business of survival and raising my children and that was priority one for me. Bridge building on the journey had to begin and my tools were education. In the 1980’s I earned an associate degree in mining technology, then went on to earn a diploma from a practical nursing (LPN) school and immediately enrolled in an associate degree (RN) nursing program. Eventually I earned 2 more associate degrees.

A major part of the journey that changed me was my decision to marry a second husband 5 years after divorcing the first (& for the same reason). There was no one but myself to blame for this mistake and my poor judge of character.  It has taken years of personal insight (and healing) to realize what a broken woman I was when that marriage ended. I never felt so used, abused, rejected and abandoned in my entire life. I never believed that I was bitter, but because of that brokenness I lost all desire to date.  Trust was gone. Maybe that “white knight” was just a fairy tale after all.

In my 40’s, I worked full time while attending baccalaureate nursing classes full time. I had a total of 2 weekends off a year. Yes, I know that’s crazy, but that is what I needed to do and somehow I reached down deep into the well of God-given inner strength and did it.   At the age of 41, I completed my BSN degree, becoming a first generation college student in my family. My children would follow me to claim their baccalaureate diplomas in 1996 and 1997 (education and agronomy). My total focus was to be a living example to my children of the value of hard work, determination and overcoming adversity. Mission accomplished!

In my 50’s, I watched as each of my children took their places in society and began building lives for themselves as independent and responsible adults. My friends always said it was a great thing that I had my children when I was aged 19 and 21. When they were grown, I would be able to do anything I wanted to do.

The funny thing is, my focus was never on self-discovery of what I wanted to do when my children were grown. I never saw past my mission of getting them both through college. Consequently, the “empty nest” reality hit me like a ton of bricks. I was still viewing my identity as that of struggling single parent. The image I had of myself had to change. For the longest time, I just wanted my children to be close to me. Unfortunately, that desire resembles smothering instead of mothering. They didn’t need ME anymore, but I was the one who needed THEM.   Beyond raising and educating my children, I had long since forgotten how to dream for myself.

The journey to change that image of myself was monumental. There were years of rapid changes that happened faster that I could adjust. There were personal, professional, financial and health-related challenges to overcome. There were times I felt abandoned.   There were times I felt depressed.   There were times I lost my sense of purpose and felt like most of my useful life was behind me. I was lonely in a city of over 295,803 and had no idea how to change that. In fact, it was a fearful proposition to think about.

My 60’s have been a growing era of redefining the person I have become further down the journey of my life. It has been an era of learning how to dream again. Six years after my oldest child left the nest, I learned how to wave good-bye to my former identity as a single mother. It was the result of many, many baby steps. Sometimes those steps were taken through tears and loneliness.

I had to come out of my safety zone and establish interests and friendships separate from those I had had with my children. I had to learn to invest in myself.  I had to forgive myself for my past mistakes. Now I care far less about being liked and popular and far more about being respected for the journey that has molded me into the woman I am today.  If my “white knight” is still out there (and since I’ve learned to dream again, I believe he is).  I now believe I would recognize him if I saw him.   I know the qualities (not physical attributes) I’m looking for and where I will accept no compromise.   He must be a man who loves the Lord first.  Finally I am ready to meet him!

What about you? Where are you in the journey? What have you learned along the way? What adversities have you overcome?   I’d love to hear your comments!

Pam Baker, RN

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