Have you made a list of your pri­or­i­ties in life?

I’ve gone through my life with pri­or­i­ties, I’ve just nev­er writ­ten them down.

In my 20’s my pri­or­i­ty was to own an Eng­lish cot­tage or small house in the coun­try­side but at the same time close to a creek where I could sail my boat. I just assumed I would mar­ry my male ‘priority’ of the time and things would fall into place – just as it had for my par­ents. My boat could be as small as it is now (a land­locked 8 ft dinghy) but it had to be a sail­ing boat. My male ‘priority’ had the vin­tage 40 ft boat so that was a given.

I assumed that I would fin­ish col­lege, get my teach­ing cer­tifi­cate and then the pri­or­i­ty in life would be a teach­ing job close to where I assumed my pri­or­i­ties would take me.

Of course, just because you have pri­or­i­ties doesn’t mean they come to fruition.

Once I mar­ried a dif­fer­ent male ‘priority’ my pri­or­i­ties changed because mar­ry­ing him involved emi­grat­ing to the US. Dur­ing our first year prepar­ing all the mate­ri­als to pub­lish the first US edi­tion of a much-revered British nau­ti­cal almanac was our joint pri­or­i­ty. Hav­ing done that we had to come up with new pri­or­i­ties when the British com­pa­ny decid­ed we were excess baggage!

Teach­ing couldn’t become a pri­or­i­ty once I was told that I wasn’t even eli­gi­ble to teach in Flori­da! What sort of coun­try had I moved to? So just find­ing work was a pri­or­i­ty. Then get­ting to work with­out a car was a pri­or­i­ty. What bus route was I on and where would it take me? Was there even any work I could do along the route?

Dur­ing that sec­ond year the emo­tion­al drain of being away from my fam­i­ly became too great. My need for my fam­i­ly in Eng­land became my pri­or­i­ty. I left my job of 18 months to go back to Eng­land not know­ing if I would return.

One of my chief pri­or­i­ties then was not to be a bur­den on my par­ents. Thus I forced myself to return to the US and work out the com­pli­ca­tions of mar­ried life in a very for­eign, inhos­pitable coun­try with an angry hus­band who was noth­ing like the per­son I married!

Some­how we worked things out. With­in a year we moved to a flat in more pleas­ant sur­round­ings, albeit just as for­eign and inhospitable.

Being preg­nant for the first time was an extreme­ly hap­py time for me. Our first son was born and there was no doubt that my pri­or­i­ty was to care for him, albeit forc­ing me into an extreme­ly iso­lat­ed life at home. But with­out fam­i­ly there was no way I was leav­ing him with strangers to go out to work just for the social contacts. 

My son was a pri­or­i­ty but iso­la­tion, I now under­stand, takes a con­sid­er­able toll on a moth­er and her child. Even­tu­al­ly I found swim­ming lessons and moth­er and baby groups to share with my son. We sel­dom went out except with him – we were a fam­i­ly now; that was our joint pri­or­i­ty. We were so lucky to find one per­son to be a beloved occa­sion­al evening babysit­ter and for her I am tru­ly thankful.

With the arrival of son #2 pri­or­i­ties remained the same – fam­i­ly life as best we could man­age it. We spent every Sat­ur­day morn­ing togeth­er learn­ing about our Flori­da sur­round­ings with a group of oth­er like-mind­ed souls – we were the only ones hik­ing with children. 

Then there came the thrill and stress of own­ing our first home – liv­ing in a fair­ly wood­ed area offered love­ly dai­ly walks and bike rides and a shady gar­den for the boys to play in. 

Iso­la­tion was still an issue but one by one we befriend­ed our neigh­bours and that’s where we live to this day. I sup­pose choos­ing to home edu­cate also iso­lat­ed us, espe­cial­ly since the major­i­ty of those mak­ing that choice in Flori­da were fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­tians — we are not.

Those who’ve lived in this neigh­bour­hood for a while for the most part don’t want to move on to a big­ger house. Their pri­or­i­ties are the atmos­phere of the area they live in not sim­ply how many bed­rooms or whether the kitchen is big enough or mod­ern enough. Peo­ple who have such pri­or­i­ties move on with­in a hand­ful of years and do not fit the pro­file of the rest of us.

Our pri­or­i­ties seem to be to live in a multi­gen­er­a­tional mix. Any one of us could knock on each other’s door and give assis­tance as we have all done at times in the past 26 years – through hur­ri­canes, fall­en trees and many things in between. We have been each other’s pri­or­i­ties when needed.

My pri­or­i­ties from my 20’s have come to fruition – just in a dif­fer­ent part of the world! I do live in a small house and I love my cot­tage style gar­den, albeit with a Flori­da beat. I am close to a riv­er and when my hus­band and I feel fit enough we can launch my boat in Salt Creek just down the road!

My two biggest pri­or­i­ties, my sons, have been my main pri­or­i­ty in every regard for near­ly 30 years. I’m hap­py with that. They are won­der­ful human beings, total­ly self-edu­cat­ed and they have a mul­ti­tude of gifts and tal­ents between them.

Per­haps my pri­or­i­ties have made many dreams come true. Now it’s time for me to devel­op new pri­or­i­ties in life with­out cast­ing off the old – just turn­ing a bend in the riv­er of life.

Sail­ing, a hus­band, chil­dren, a home – what can be next on my pri­or­i­ty list?