Choosing Your Path

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Each of us encounters different crossroads throughout our lives. Some are very clear, like whether to get married or have a baby or move from New York City to San Francisco.

Some, on the other hand, are so unclear that you can be heading in a direction before you realize you’ve just hit one - say, a chance encounter that leads to a new client, or meeting somebody that will one day become your best friend and partner.

What I’ve never before experienced is being able to see a future crossroads. To be able to see two distinct paths I could take. But I have that before me now, in the form of my grandmother and her younger sister, my aunt.

I am lucky enough to have witnessed both of these wonderful women growing gracefully into their elder years. I feel extremely fortunate to still have them both in my life. By learning from the things they have done and seeing how they’ve lived, I feel like I can get a glimpse into the future and make wiser choices for myself.

My grandmother is 90 and my aunt 80, though to see them you’d think that my grandmother was the younger of the two. On a personal level I’ve always connected more closely with my aunt, but I admire my grandmother greatly. I am always amazed by her energy and ability to live life so fully.

In many ways both of these women have always been my guides in my life. They share some amazing qualities that I have done my best to emulate over the years.

They both have a terrific sense of humor and place a high value on laughter. They love their families and have always worked hard at taking care of those around them. They are both striking and have a great sense of style. And they are both commanding and brilliant women who thrive in the center of attention. 

After that, the similarities end. Where my grandmother is energetic and always giving to those around her, my aunt loves - needs - to sleep a lot and has two nurses who look after her.

Where my aunt lives a fairly sedentary life and has not always had the most healthy of diets - brownies and diet coke feature a lot! - my grandmother has always been super active and still loves to travel widely even now.

We all love to indulge, and I definitely relate to the attraction of leading a slower-paced lifestyle, but it’s hard to get away from the fact that my grandmother is the healthier of the two, and is much more surrounded by loving friends and family.

That’s not to be too critical of my aunt; in her younger days she was always so slim that her father would literally pay her five dollars for each pound she gained. That would be worth doing even now, but back in the 1940s that was an enormous amount of money for a child. Unfortunately, this reward system ingrained habits that caught up to her eventually, so that now she is much heavier than my grandmother.

Where my grandmother always loved to be on the move, my aunt’s focus was indoors. She was once a world famous interior designer; I always loved the way she dressed and she knew how to throw a great party.

But my grandmother’s positivity and attitude to life has always been second to none. And it’s my grandmother that opens up to me about her life, our family and the difficulties she has faced.

I feel so lucky to have two such wonderful role models in my life and to be able to use their lives and experiences to inform my own. To be able to see potential paths for my life branching out in front of me, through knowing, observing and talking to them.

We all have idols or mentors or people we want to emulate, and looking up to people in this way can help us to make choices for ourselves. I think my choice is to recognize that without effort I could easily slide towards the less desirable characteristics of my aunt, but with effort and will, I can work towards embodying the qualities I most admire in my grandma.

We can never know exactly what will be in our future, but we can always learn from our role models, our mentors and our loved ones.

We can trace the courses their lives have taken, we can understand their successes and missteps, and we can use that insight to guide our own lives.

We can’t see into the future, but we can choose the path that we will take.