It seems that I have had four lives. I am 76 years of age and see that my life has had four tasks–first, my life at home growing up. Second, living as a member of a religious order for 18 years. Third was furthering my education to become a college professor, and fourth is my present life of developing a deeper spirituality and wisdom.
As the eighth child of a former Christian minister who had embraced Catholicism, I grew up in a chaotic household of four sisters and three brothers. Mother had to manage everything in a family of VERY strong-willed individuals. Our father worked as an associate editor of a Catholic newspaper. The marriage collapsed after many strains, and our parents divorced when I was five.
Through study of the life of St. Thomas Aquinas, I became attracted to his theology and the Dominican Order, so at 19 I joined up. At 20, I went out to teach with very little college or other preparation. It was strictly On the Job Training and we had larger classes of 55 or more in a Chicago suburb. People were moving out of the city into our area, and we were in a new parish with only a school building. At one point, I had 60 students in the morning for 3 hours, and 60 more in afternoon sessions. The children had lots of homework and most parents made sure they did it. It was difficult, but I was young and foolish! Nobody had told me the situation was impossible!
I taught 4 years in Chicago, 8 years in N.J., 3 years back in IL, and 3 years in Minneapolis. At the last place, I was having health problems and realized that overwork was covering up some basic dissatisfactions. I left the order and started to make my own way in the world.
While teaching in an elementary school, I got my MS degree and then went away for an Ed.D. for 2 years. Loans helped me do this. It was a luxury to study full-time, because I had always taught full-time and had gone to school on weekends and during summers. After getting my doctorate, I was hired as a college teacher at a state college in CO. That was my third life task, which lasted 20 years.
Now I’ve embarked on a more serene phase–concentrating on cultivating a deeper spirituality. I believe God gives us life tasks to accomplish. For many people it involves finding a life partner, raising a family, and pursuing a career. For me, it has occurred in 4 stages, each one having its own joys, hardships, and satisfactions. I have experienced God’s help and guidance in all four, and am grateful for it all, for it has brought me to this phase, the best one of all.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.