79: Road of One Thousand Bends

79: Road of One Thousand Bends

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In...To College

Road of One Thousand Bends

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.

~Marie Curie

When I graduated from high school in Scotland everyone assumed I would go on to college. I really dropped a bombshell when I said that was not going to be the case. My aunt, the most outspoken of our family, sat me down and asked in her own subtle way, “What the hell is going on with you?”

I met her steely-eyed gaze and said; “It’s a long and far too difficult road for me.”

My aunt Paula studied me and exclaimed, “Havers!” (a good old Scottish word implying I was talking absolute rubbish).

“No,” I replied. “It’s all the years ahead of me — days full of learning and nights full of studying. My friends will be out playing sports or going to the movies, and I will be at home with my books. No weekends of boyfriends or going dancing, because I won’t have the time. I’ll have no money to buy music or clothes and my life will be a misery.”

I expected Paula to be taken aback at my grand, and I have to admit, well-rehearsed reasoning. I was not prepared for her snapping at me, “This all goes back to Tossa de Mar in Spain and that so-called “Road of a Thousand Bends” of yours.”

I stared at her amazed. “I don’t see the connection with that and my not going to college.”

“Oh,” she responded, “then maybe you are not as bright as you like to think!”

I had always been car sick, so when I went on my first flight at the age of twelve, my family expected the worst, but I loved it. Landing in Gerona, in northeastern Spain, we boarded a bus to take us to Tossa de Mar. At first, I was fine, but as we got closer to Tossa, the road began to bend and twist, and just kept on winding. They stopped the bus twice for me to be sick, and I nearly died! I was so bad that on the return journey we took a taxi so that it was easier to make stops for me.

It took my family two years to persuade me to go back to Tossa. If it weren’t for the fact that it was such a beautiful little Spanish town, and I had fallen in love with it, nothing would have made me go back. This time we hired a car and drove along what I had by then christened “the road of a thousand bends!”

I dreaded it all through the flight, I steeled myself for the bends to start, and then I was sick most of the way to Tossa as usual! I declared on that holiday I would never go back.

Giving me time to remember, Paula continued, “Why do you always have to focus on the one thing you dislike, when it is surrounded by things you do like?”

“I don’t do that!” I denied hotly.

Paula waved a hand. “Of course you do. If you concentrate on the negative, it will take over your life. This whole college thing is your “road of a thousand bends” all over again.”

“What?” I asked. “It has nothing to do with that horrendous road?”

“The road is not horrendous and it does not have a thousand bends,” she pointed out. “Actually there are fifteen of them, steep, I admit. I can understand they made you sick the first time, but after that, it was all you focused on. You have to put things in perspective; everyone has to accept the things they don’t like along with those that they do!”

I took that in and got a bit tearful and she sighed, “It’s part of growing up. You have to learn things about yourself, good and bad. If you give up on your education now, it’s yourself you are letting down. You could at least give it a try and stop moaning about the bad things and think of all the good things.”

“What good things, that I will get certificates and be regarded as brainy, but lose out on my youth?”

Paula walked towards me in an almost threatening manner at that outburst. “Do you think every kid who goes to college leads such a dull and tragic life as you anticipate for yourself?”

I decided it was best to stay silent to that question, and besides, I had no answer.

“You will make lots of new friends, share your studying with them and obviously, you can play your sports at college. You can get a part-time job and earn money to buy all those things you think you will never be able to afford. You can choose subjects that interest you and find endless things full of enjoyment and fun that every other student seems to manage. If you can’t find a boyfriend during all that, then you probably never will, so why worry on that score?”

Fortunately, I listened to what my aunt said to me that day. I made friends for life at college, fell in love and out again a few times, had a number of weird and wonderful jobs and studied hard, yet I enjoyed it all. I can honestly say they were some of the best years of my life and though there were some bends, there were nothing like a thousand, and the journey was just as exciting and special to me as my destination.

~Joyce Stark

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