Monday, March 13, 2006

Alternative to the preordained

In my previous post which was a response to a meme, Stu thought there was a story behind my answer to the last question:
Name the person who inputed the most wisdom into your life?
My parents: Mom because she showed me the importance of family life, and Dad because he made me look at alternatives to what I thought were preordained paths for me to take.

There is a story, and I've decided to write two separate posts, one for each parent. Today's post is about Dad's influence.

After high school, I went on to university, what for me was preordained. (This is not meant in a religious sense, but more generally. More commonly expressed, I guess I'd say "it was a given", but preordained sounds better!) Anyway... my choice of major was also clear to me: German language and culture. Ever since I had started learning German in Year 9, it was what I loved and had a flair for. So far, so good. What I was going to do with a bachelors degree in German literature was something I hadn't thought about, but there was time for that, and anyway it was party time at uni! My first year was spent having fun, going folk dancing almost every night, and achieving rather mediocre results in my studies.

Dad had a different idea about how he saw my life heading: a degree in German, marriage and kids, without my ever going out to work. This was the 60s, before women in numbers started trying to have careers AND a family. Earning a living was an important experience he thought I should have. For myself, I was interested in marriage at some stage, but children were never a part of it.

This is what I wrote in English class when I was in Year 10. My teacher added her comments, she was right about the marriage and children, although the latter would come along another 25 years later!

So at the end of that first year, Dad said he would not fund my education for the following year, but would resume doing so if I went out to work for a year.

I thought it was the end of the world at first. It was not how I envisaged my life. That is, I'd finish my degree and then, well, something would turn up. Not much envisaging, was it? But I did go and get a job as a clerk in an insurance company in San Francisco, and plucked up the courage to move out of home and rent an apartment in the city (still possible to do that in the 60s). It was wonderful.

At the end of that year, Dad came up with another idea. Through someone at work he heard about a scheme for young people to work in Germany for 2 - 3 months. In those days Germany just couldn't get enough workers. I got a job as a maid in a small hotel on a resort island off the northern coast of Germany. At the end of my stint there I then started travelling around Europe, and my original 3 months became a year, including living and working in Hamburg for 6 months.

This did wonders for my spoken German, my self confidence, and it provided a focus for what I wanted to do with my degree: I was going to become a German teacher, which I eventually did.

So by Dad interrupting my studies, I went to do things I would probably never have done otherwise, and how glad I am for the way things turned out!


Alice said...

It's funny how we dig in our heels and resist the suggestions made by older folk, particularly parents. Ten, twenty or thirty years down the track we realise they weren't so daft after all.

Great story of how your Dad really understood you more than you probably thought at the time, and definitely had your interests at heart.

Kerri said...

Great story Val. Your dad sounds like a very wise man and it's good that he was able to prod you into doing more with your life...and consequently causing you to have wonderful experiences. Alice is's hard for us to take the advise of our parents when we're younger, and understand the wisdom they're trying to impart. You did good! (I know...bad grammar) :)

Sonia said...

Great memories, Val. Really your Dad was very significant in your life!