The experience of everything happens for a reason
I would never advise any young woman today to take on a marriage at age 18, but that’s exactly what I did, much to the dismay of my adoring mother. Her eyes looked like she was in the middle of a horror movie when I told her my intentions.
“You’re a fetus!” she wailed as she stood in the middle of our living room floor in total disbelief. “How on earth can you even think about getting married when I still have to remind you to make your bed?!”
I honestly couldn’t argue with that. In her eyes I was being impulsive and making a big mistake, even though she could offer me no fruitful alternatives.
Once I was told there was no money to further my education, I could have easily dissolved into hopelessness, but instead, I planned a wedding. Trust me; I was well aware of my plight as far as securing a meaningful future. I also knew this decision to marry so young wasn’t exactly going to make my mother any more confident that I had a clue as to what I was doing.
But the heart wants what the heart wants, so nothing she said could convince me not to wed the fine young man I knew I couldn’t live without.
Was I being foolish? No. There was a good reason for my decision.
You see, when I was a young girl in the sixth grade, I remember two well-dressed soldiers coming to class to tell us about the conflict raging in Southeast Asia. I tried my best to listen, but I was no different from the other wide-eyed girls going crazy over tall, gorgeous men dressed in military uniforms.
Truthfully, I paid the subject of their speech absolutely no attention. That is, until exactly six years later. That’s when I noticed the older boys from the neighborhood disappearing one by one. Everyone suddenly spoke of the draft in hushed tones as if pitch could change the outcome. Now the reason for that visit from those military officers all those years ago was crystal clear. War.
Most of the boys I knew that last year of high school weren’t talking about college; they were talking about being drafted. The only thing that could exempt you from military service was money to enroll in a four-year college, which only a few I knew had.
So in 1971, with the Vietnam War raging in full force, the love of my life was without a doubt going to be drafted. I was literally living in fear of his demise. When he asked me to marry him, some two months before graduation, I happily accepted.
True, I wanted to get married because I was crazy in love, but to be honest, I also knew there was a chance I could end up a widow. I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could, then wait for the bottom to fall out of my life. On the surface, my situation appeared hopeless. But I learned there are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them.
I smile now over four decades later when I think how my brave new husband trumped the whole situation by not waiting to get his call for service. Instead he freely enlisted in the United States Navy because of his great love for his country. He raised his hand and took the oath without even discussing it with me. When he finally got the guts to tell me, there was no turning back. They were literally the scariest words a new wife could hear.
But I was wrong. He didn’t go off to war, but instead signed us up for a life-changing journey.
The Vietnam War ended, and we took advantage of the many opportunities that lay before us. We lived in several states and spent two exciting years in Italy. I learned to speak Italian fluently, and could actually navigate most of Europe by boat or train without a guide. Me! A country girl from West Virginia. I literally morphed into my best self.
I’ve had many experiences in my life, but few have left as great impression on me as being a proud United States Navy wife.
Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become who you were really meant to be.
Instead of complaining about your circumstances, get busy and make new ones. It doesn’t matter what you’re afraid of. What matters is trusting yourself enough to confront it and survive.
Eventually all things fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moments, and know that everything happens for a reason.