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Tobey Maguire as Homer Wells from The Cider House Rules often comes to visit me in my mind. It has been nearly twenty years since the movie was released, and almost that long since I last saw it, and yet it lives with me every day. With its unexpected and often dark storyline, it reaffirmed in my mind a life lesson that I guess I had always known but that did not fully resonate until I saw the movie. Even with an abundance of planning otherwise, sometimes the journey chooses you.
The movie, based on John Irving’s book of the same name, first published in 1985, tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch, obstetrician and founder and director of an orphanage is rural Maine in the first half of the twentieth century. Homer Wells is his favorite orphan and is never adopted. Homer becomes Dr. Larch’s apprentice and has big dreams of leaving the orphanage and having a life of his own. Life, it seems, has other plans for him.
Repeatedly throughout the story, Homer makes plans to pursue other goals, but each time, through the people in his life, he is taught that he is already on the path that has chosen him. My life has not turned out anything like the life I had planned as a child and teenager. I used to tell everyone that I was going to be a writer, living in a small cabin in the mountains of Colorado. Now, with 50 knocking loudly at the door, I find myself in rural Tennessee, never having been to Colorado, but finally living in my cabin in the woods, and only just now really starting on my writer journey. Plans change. A common quote on the internet is from John Lennon’s Beautiful Boy, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” How true that is. My life is nowhere close to the life I imagined I would have, or even set out to have, as a young man. I live more than 1300 miles from where I had intended to live. Instead of doting on grandchildren, or even children of my own, I live alone in the quiet mountains of Tennessee. I have spent the last twenty years working in the financial services industry when I had hoped to be writing full-time the entire time. I grew up in the Great White North, as many of us from there refer to the upper Midwest. One unexpected vacation to Tennessee, with its notably smaller mountains but with warm weather and southern hospitality, and I was sold. Someday I will make it to Colorado, but it is often too cold there. This winter, I am finding Tennessee too cold, and I am daydreaming of living on the white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. That is my next dream. I have not made it there permanently yet, but I do make a point of visiting often. Looking back, had I made it to Colorado, and especially in my early twenties as I had intended to, I would have lived a very different life. That life may not have been better or worse, but I would have missed the journey I have been on, and it’s a journey I would not want to miss. Had I never come to Tennessee, I never would have met the love of my life. Meeting her and her family brought me so many unexpected and wonderful life experiences. They are the ones that first introduced me to the white sand beaches, and the ocean itself for that matter, and helped form an intense love for the sea that will never end. Those journeys and experiences shaped the person I am today, and that is a person I am proud to be. I lost my dear Laramie several years ago. It is a raw and aching pain that I know will never fully go away. Losing her, I feel like half of me died as well, and now I am having to live like a stroke survivor without the use of half of my body. I would not trade one second of this pain, because that would have meant that I never would have met Laramie. To share in her ever optimistic and deeply empathetic view of the world, for even a short time, is a gift that makes every bit of pain worth it now. She truly made me a better person, and her influence lives on through those of us that loved her. Regarding my career choices, yes, I am well behind where I wanted to be in my writing career. In November 2017 I self-published my debut novel, Getting Home. It is a book I could not have written without my experiences of the past twenty years. Working in financial services for so many years introduced me to an abundance of colorful and unique individuals, many of whom I have stolen traits from to create the characters in my writing. Not to mention it allowed me the opportunity to have a little savings so that in this chapter in my life I can concentrate on writing more than working. My dear readers, I would love to hear your stories. What dreams did you have? What life chose you? Please leave your comments, or if you are further inclined, use these questions as a writing prompt on your own blog. Send me a link when your post is published, and I will post that link on this page. To close today I will refer to my favorite quote from The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller, “The old dreams were good dreams; they didn’t work out, but glad I had them.” Until next time. If you liked this post, please be sure to check out the rest of the I’ve Learned Series.