Signs Point to Yes
When I look back on the dimming horizon of 2013, I marvel at the abundance of the year. We bought a house, we made new friends, we realigned our thinking, transitioning from moving trucks, packing tape and uncertainty, to a minivan, a tire swing, and this old place- -our new home. My family traveled thousands of miles to get here, the five of us taking a leap of faith toward Northampton, MA. It had the right ingredients: a progressive college town, good opportunities, good schools, and family near-ish. We considered other places, trying to piece together a new life after a year abroad, but like so many situations, we chose our path based on what we knew, and took small steps until this place, this opportunity, revealed itself as the best choice out of many good ones. It wasn’t luck. We did our research. We thought about the kind of life we wanted, and I Googled endless conversation threads on City-Data. I’ve come to think of Google as a sort of Magic 8-Ball for the 2000’s. Is Northampton the right place for us? Signs point to yes…
Some not-so-nice things happened along the way. Mice ate through the motherboard of our heating system, and after several mishandled service calls, our entire system needed to be replaced. There was a questionable mammogram result, and some truly terrible days waiting to find out that I was okay after all. My Gram always said, “Growing older isn’t for wimps,” and she was right. But because I know catastrophe is possible, I also know that overwhelming good is equally possible, both beyond our control no matter how much we try to plan the outcomes. However, Dr. Phil recommends we set goals. The media admonishes us to make a resolution and stick to it. A highly un-scientific poll of my peers finds that most of them perceive goal-setting as necessary. I don’t know about you, but the thought of a New Year’s resolution leaves me stone cold. There is something unappealing and bitter about it that must be swallowed whole. A resolution is a formal intention, but by nature the formality makes the resolution a rigid, unchangeable pledge. Here’s the thing: I’ve always told my kids that changing their minds is a good thing; when they know more, they should change their minds, then change their courses based on the new information. This is in direct conflict with the resolvers and the goal-setters.
Last semester I had a fifth-grade student who reminded me of the Mona Lisa as a child. She kept contentedly to herself, smiling in an old and knowing way. One Friday I asked her if she had plans for the weekend and she replied emphatically, “Well, no. If I make plans, I will miss what is going to happen.” I suddenly felt as though I were Jon Stewart realizing he was interviewing the Buddha. Her wisdom struck a chord in me. Many people prefer knowing exactly what will happen, many resolving to make something happen, oblivious to those along for the ride and the repercussions of the fallout. They also miss the scenic route, and the unimagined opportunities on the road less-traveled.
I’m not sure what it means if I don’t charge onward with iron-clad goals anymore. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to do anything, it means I want to do almost everything. I already have what I need. I think of my life as a map with many roads, some already traveled, some uncharted territory. I like heading in a direction, but getting off the Interstate for the good stuff. I really like to write. I really like to teach. I really like to make things with my hands. So if it’s okay with the world, I’m going to consult the Magic Google 8-Ball, take small steps, and head out in the direction that seems right. Because, like my favorite 5th grader, I don’t want to miss what is going to happen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah Mattison Buhl
As a mother of three, Sarah appreciates the extraordinary beauty of the ordinary. She makes her home with her family in Northampton, MA.