I love the adorable little ampersand so understated with its swooping curves and sassy toe tapping on the page. I love it for all that it is, for saying ‘Wait, there’s more. We’re not through here.’ It’s a symbol of hope. No one that I know of has ever tied wretched things together with an ampersand. Nope. Ampersands are strong and happy. They link the Mr. with his Mrs., the faith we all yearn for with hope and love. Good things, people. Ever heard of M&M candy? Need I say more?
Your whole childhood, you hear that you can do anything. If you’re lucky, you might make it to ten without figuring out it’s a load of crap. I think I was seven. I wanted to be a part-time vet who only played with the animals and trained horses when I wasn’t busy writing or carrying around one of those important looking briefcases on my way to the cookie shop my friend and I were no doubt going to turn into a franchise rivaled only by my beloved McDonalds. It took about six library books to figure out I wouldn’t make it past the prerequisite classes for veterinary school. Even worse, I discovered an unfortunate hay allergy, was too sensitive to other’s comments to share my writing, and had nothing to put in a briefcase. My mother would not even get me a house key, people. My dreams were crushed. I could still make a really awesome batch of cookies though, so there was a bit of hope for the bakery. By twelve, all the work that goes into owning your own business paired with my parents’ expectations of me going to college and making something of myself with a practical degree and my hopes for and ended. In my parents’ defense, I really don’t think they understood how impractical most degrees are once you try to sell yourself on the job market.
College was where “or” became an ever pervasive and nearly intolerable word. People just threw it around like it meant nothing, like I should be able to choose with ease because that’s just what adults did. Adults lived ‘or’ kinds of lives. They focused on their educations, or they focused on their jobs, or their social lives. Married women became moms right away or risked not having a family so they could focus on their job. Shoot, some of us were choosing whether rent or groceries would win the battle of the budget. Every choice seemed more and more important and I was a natural born planner so it suited me just fine to practically flow-chart the next eight years of my life. I mapped out nearly every choice a person could possibly make so when an ‘or’ popped up, I’d be ready and I was…or so I thought. The problem with ‘or’ is that you never strive for ‘and’. You just accept that choices must be made and you can’t have it all. I bought into it. I in fact became an advocate for ‘or’. I would parade about with all my choices shining like beacons on a foggy night. ‘Or’ is a trap though. ‘Or’ is not a beacon for all, for some it’s the siren song drowning them in regret.
When I got sick, my life flooded with ‘ors’ and I hated each one because I didn’t feel like I had any say in the choices that presented themselves. I couldn’t plan for the ‘ors’ because I never knew what they might be. I had planned and done what I should. I had made those tough decisions and it hadn’t changed anything. Life still bit me in the butt with some old ratty dentures. ‘Or’ betrayed me. That’s when I chose ‘and’. That’s right, I converted to the dark side and chose to take control because it was my life to live and there was far too much that I had lost in my quest of a life without regrets. I was so worried about regretting poor decisions that I grew to regret missed opportunities. I wish I had been a pretty good student and had a social life. I wish I had wrote for my classes and for myself. I wish I had spoken out for others and fought for myself. I wish I had chose a practical degree and the one I loved. As much as I wish I could make more of those years, I may not have ended up in this spot had I chosen ‘and’ sooner. This place where I am now is pretty awesome, so I guess I don’t actually wish anything were different, just maybe wonder how it might have been.
As always, I challenge you. I challenge you to lead the kind of life you want. Don’t chose ‘and’ if you’re not an ‘and’ person, but don’t let people limit you to ‘or’ if you are. We only get one chance in this life. No matter what happens in the afterlife, if you believe or not that there is one, we have our now. We have these moments and life will present us with choices. Sometimes, ‘or’ will be the best choice, like driving dangerously or possibly being a tad late to an appointment (choose possibly being late, please), but sometimes ‘and’ will beg you to take action because it offers more. It offers the possibility of regret, but it also offers the opportunity to find out exactly what life can offer you. Do what makes you happy – dare yourself to strive for your own version of an ‘and’ life and find joy in the journey.