The Path Not Taken

After 30 years of defining myself as an accountant and developing an adequately successful career, it’s now time to start a new chapter of my life and create a new identity for myself. This task sounds simple on paper, but translation to reality is anything but simple. Where do I want to go from here? What would be stimulating and fulfilling for the second half of my existence? How can I make a difference in the world, leave a mark after I’m gone? Tough questions. Maybe the path ahead can be determined by looking back at the road that led to where I am today.

Life is full of choices, each leading to another series of options, then another and another. Perhaps one of those options not previously taken could be my next identity. After several months of thoughtfully reviewing the course of my life, this technique of regressive contemplation eventually led me all the way back to the early 1980’s and Mrs. Ferrell, high school English teacher extraordinaire. She was the most respected teacher I’ve ever known. The rapport she possessed with her students was unparalleled. Even the most delinquent of students behaved respectfully in Mrs. Ferrell’s classroom.

I remember one specific incident with a student who didn’t care much about high school. The type of student capable but not interested in applying that capability. Mrs. Ferrell asked the young man a question about whichever classic literature we were studying at the time, and he answered the question. Not only did he answer correctly, he responded with intelligence and interest. He was involved in the moment and applying his capabilities as I had never before witnessed. What struck the teenage me about that moment was discovering that my fellow student was intelligent after all. Fast forward several decades and the wiser version of myself is now realizing how impactful Mrs. Ferrell was to the people sitting in that classroom. The respect she commanded from her students was irrefutable and gently powerful.

Mrs. Ferrell, this profound teacher that I held in such high regard, once told me that she loved the way I wrote. So of course, I became an accountant. No, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but remember I was young then. Hearing Mrs. Ferrell praise one of my talents simply didn’t correlate as advice in my young mind. Many other influential adults in my life were saying “You’re good at math. You should become an accountant. You can prepare tax returns from your home while you raise children. Accountants make good money”. I do remember internally questioning the inclusion of child rearing in this equation, but the rest seemed to be sound guidance. A choice was made, and life headed down the path of numbers instead of the path of words.

The 18-year-old me made a choice. As with so many of life’s junctions, neither road was wrong, just different. No regrets for living a life of spreadsheets; it’s been well balanced and profitable as you might expect for an accountant. The journey down the numbers road has been filled with friendships and foes, laughter and tears, challenges and accomplishments. If a different road had been chosen, the results would likely have been similar but with a different landscape, different people and different experiences.

Now it’s time for this journey to move forward, or more accurately, backward. Time to explore the path not taken by the 18-year-old me. Time to see how insightful Mrs. Ferrell was and give this writing gig a try. It remains to be seen if my writing will influence the lives of others and be my legacy to the world or if it will only be a means of personal growth throughout the second half of my existence. Either way, the future will at minimum be interesting and with any luck, adequately successful.