The Path We Choose

The old woman sat in her comfortable chair, reading and dozing. The autumn wind whirled around and the leaves danced on the lawn. The wood burning stove was lit, and the old woman drank her tea. Her great-niece came in from outside, having collected wood for the fire. The great-niece was happy to be here. She came to her great-aunt's house whenever she needed to think things out. Great-aunt, she asked, is it always important to follow your dreams?

The old woman thought for a moment. Yes, she said, it's always important, but sometimes it is a road fraught with difficulty.

But if the dream is so difficult to pursue, then why pursue it at all?

The old woman put her book to the side. Well, she said, because of course you would always wonder about it if you didn't at least try.

But, you, great-aunt, you pursued your dreams. Aren't you happy you did?

I had no choice, said the old woman. Destiny led me down the path. Some people are like that. They can't leave a door unopened, they can't pass by a chance encounter. I was like that, for better or for worse. But don't make the mistake of thinking that I was always strong, or I always knew, or that I was always happy, or that I didn't miss anything in my life. That would be a mistake, my beautiful great-niece.

But look at all the people that never even try, great-aunt. They never had the gumption to open the door.

Or the wind did not blow it open for them at the right moment, said the old woman.

The young woman thought about this. For all that you did, great-aunt, tell me what you missed that was so important.

I missed your uncle's wedding, my sweetheart. I missed it when your grandmother's dog died and she needed someone to make her some soup. I missed when your mother graduated from university, with such honors. I missed your christening, darling. I missed walking on the river, alone, in the fall.

Don't get me wrong. I lived a beautiful life. I saw foreign lands, I ate wonderful food, I drank the best wine. I learned languages. I met interesting people. I saw remarkable art, and created some myself. I challenged myself in many ways that I never thought possible.

And I was loved, very loved, by a special man.

But there is a price to pay for every decision we make. When we make one decision, we turn our back on many other possibilities. But, in this life, we only can follow one path at a time. And we have to allow ourselves to be satisfied with that, or we will be too sad about the things we missed.

The young woman sat in front of the fire and thought.

I am going to make us some dinner, great-aunt.

That sounds like a very good idea, darling, said the old woman, and picked up her book again.