When the road is paved with question marks

Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to see into the future.

In 2nd grade, Mrs. Rosen called me “Miss What If” because I asked a lot of questions to help me determine all the possible outcomes of a situation. Example: “What if we can’t hand in our homework because tomorrow’s a snow day?” Follow-up question: “What if the next day’s also a snow day?” Sally did not like Mrs. Rosen’s nickname for me. She thought it was an undeserved stigma. I always wondered if there was some truth to the name.

In 6th grade, I realized Mrs. Rosen didn’t hold all the answers – the fortune teller at the Gold Coast Flea Market did. For $5, the lady in the tapestry skirt told me I’d get married at 24 and have a baby at 26. At age 11, that sounded pretty accurate. Now, at age 27, unmarried and unchildrened, and with the Gold Coast Flea Market conveniently out of business, I’m pretty sure I can’t get a refund.

As an adolescent, I thought obsessively about what I’d look like and what my life would be like at 17. I thought that was the perfect age. It turned out to be the age that Sally was diagnosed. After that, I stopped looking so far into the future. It seemed to be bad luck.

But here I am, at 27, and still I’d like to know what the future holds. Wouldn’t we all, I suppose? When I gaze into my crystal ball, however, all I see are question marks. Will I get married? Will I have kids? Where will I live? Will I change careers? Question marks everywhere I look. And it bugs me.

I know deep down that that’s what life is: a series of question marks that gradually get answered. Sally wrote it to me once in a letter when I was 13:

I wish I could impart to you some very important wisdom – on how to live your life, on whom to love, on whom to choose as your friends, and on how not to get hurt. But, unfortunately and fortunately, there is no secret formula for success. You, alone, will have that adventure – that wondrous adventure called life. And remember, life is always filled with unexpected surprises!

I read this letter whenever I feel a little lost, and even 13 years later, it still rings true.

How do you deal with all of life’s question marks?
Mark Ramel