I Will Never Homestead in Alaska

You may not know this about me, but at one point in my life I had a plan. It was a simple plan: with my friends, Pam and Steve, I would move to Alaska after college. We would claim a tract of free land and establish our homestead. We’d live in a tent while we built our cabin by hand. Steve was strong; we were certain he could wield an axe and fell the giant trees needed for our roofbeams. Our friend Todd, a.k.a. “Mole”, horned in on our plan by offering to design our dream log cabin (he did, in fact, go on to become an architect).

Once the cabin was built, Todd would put his drafting table in a sunny spot in the great room and Steve would hunt and wrestle bears while Pam and I would garden, can, cook and bake bread. We would live a simple life, self-sufficient, in constant communion with nature. Never mind the fact that Pam and I both envisioned ourselves in long-term monogamous relationships with Steve (poor Mole). The vision was an idyllic one. We spent months daydreaming about it on the huge hammock in Pam’s yard.

Life intervened, and like many other ideas and plans, this one fell to the wayside. A year or so later, I was convinced I would become a speech pathologist. Even later, I applied to graduate school in English and wasn’t accepted, my fledgling hope of becoming a professor of literature denied before it fully took root in my psyche.

I have thought about this quite a bit since I read the blog post written by my friend Cindy Petersen (here), in which she shared her story of believing that restaurant ownership would be her best path to an autonomous career. She did a lot of work toward that dream, and it still didn’t come true. She could have stopped there, but the resonant part of Cindy’s story is that the work was all preparation for a better dream to unfold in her life.

In my homesteading dream, I lived in a snug little home and ate locally grown organic food. To some extent, that is a picture of my current life, minus the Alaskan wilderness. In my early career thoughts, I wanted to help people who needed my skills, perhaps college students. And that has turned out to be my vocation for twenty years – I’m an educator without being either a speech pathologist or a professor. And I believe my students do need what I have to offer.

It is part of our nature as human beings to dream big dreams. When we’re young, it never occurs to us to dream of being ordinary. And these days, we are all constantly harangued to dream big, live with passion, don’t settle for anything less than the whole enchilada. However, most of us live what, on the surface, appear to be very ordinary lives. As I have gotten older, I have begun to realize that the best lesson to take from this is: Trust. Trust that my inner self will guide me in the directions I need to go. For example, I have always wanted to be a writer. In my dreams, I have imagined “writer” to be synonymous with “author of great literature”. I have written about this dream ad nauseum in a lifetime of journals. It is only now that I see an inner wisdom has guided me – I am a writer: of reflections, personal essays and memoir. And I am finding deep satisfaction and fulfilment in that.

In the midst of these thoughts, I was reminded of the lyrics from a Don McLean song, “Crossroads” (apparently my Alaska homesteading plans aren’t the only high school reminiscences coming to mind this week!):

You know I’ve heard about people like me,
But I never made the connection.
They walk one road to set them free
And find they’ve gone the wrong direction.
But there’s no need for turning back
‘Cause all roads lead to where I stand.
And I believe I’ll walk them all
No matter what I may have planned.
 

By all means, dream big dreams. I will continue to myself. But while I am dreaming, I plan to remind myself: “Don’t stop and simply gawk at the shiny dream. Instead, keep walking down your road, trusting that you’ll end up in the right place. No need for turning back.”

 
 

The Sunday Roast: Guest blog by Cindy Petersen

Today is our second post in “The Sunday Roast” Series. Cindy Petersen is a May graduate of Mount Mercy University, and her story is truly an inspiring one. Cindy is currently the owner/publisher of Iowa’s newest community newspaper, The Hiawatha Advocate (click here to check it out). The newspaper industry is a struggling one, but Cindy is living her dream right now. If you have a business and/or the financial wherewithal to help support her dream, please check out the advertising and subscriptions page – a full year subscription is a mere $30. Cindy also publishes regularly on her blog, “Write to the Point” if you are interested in reading more of her work!

Cynthia Petersen, graduated May 20, 2012 from Mount Mercy University
in Cedar Rapids, IA with a BA in Journalism

Graduating from college at 49 is nothing spectacular. People much older than I have done it. But changing the course of my life is. And that is what I believe I have done.

Some people talk about fate, and destiny, and believe that ”everything happens for a reason.” I, for one, believe that we are the creators of our own destiny and that life is what we make it. But I didn’t always think that way.

Seven years ago, I looked at where I was and I made up my mind that I wanted to make my mark in this world. I wanted to do more than just exist. I wanted to do something spectacular.

I spent years taking life as it came, raising 4 children, and dealing with life’s little tragedies.  But I learned how to remain calm in a crisis, and I became a problem-solver. I learned how to manage my money and how to make ends meet. I was a mediator, a counselor, a housekeeper, a chauffeur, and everything else that a mother does.

Now I realize that I was preparing for something spectacular.

I wanted to be my own boss and so I thought opening a restaurant was the way to go. I spent hours upon hours on the computer researching how to write a business plan, and why a marketing plan was so important. I chose all the plans for my restaurant; what I would name it, where it would be located, who my customers would be, what my menu would entail, how much everything would cost. I did everything I needed to do to make my restaurant a success. But in the end, it came down to a lack of funds.

And though it hurt me to have to give up that particular dream, I can see now that I was still only preparing for something even more spectacular.

As I got on my knees and prayed to God for chance to see my dream come true, I included that if this didn’t work out, I would go back to school and get a degree. (My father had said to me one day after reading an article I wrote, ‘Forget the restaurant, go back to school, become a writer.’)

And the rest is history. I graduated Sunday with a BA in Journalism. But not only did I graduate, I also received the President’s Award from Mount Mercy University’s president, Dr. Christopher Blake, one of the top three awards given to graduating seniors. I was also nominated for two other awards; Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities, and the Sisters of Mercy Award.

Getting the award itself was nice, but the satisfaction that I had done something to change the course of my life was what I really received that day. This was what I had been working for the past four years; that I had done something spectacular.

And I’m not done.

Most of you know that I started my own business last year and began publishing a community newspaper in February this year. Every lesson I have ever learned has prepared me to take on this huge undertaking.  But I still couldn’t have done it without going back to college. It was the last piece to my puzzle.

Something spectacular? You bet it is.

But it doesn’t stop there. It has only given me more reasons to find out what else life has in store for me and what I have in store for life.