There are many priceless lessons that my parents taught me while growing up. From the value of education to the necessity of saving money to teaching me to embrace my individuality and dreams and that I could be and have whatever I wanted.

They reiterated over and over the value of education. My mother never went to college – she started working for my grandfather’s business straight out of high school. She helped that business grow and eventually owned it with my father and retired at 50 when they sold. She led a very successful business life but always regretted not getting an education and wonders what lessons she missed out on – what skills and knowledge she might have gained from experiencing college.

My father, from as young as I can remember, taught us about saving money. I’d get piggy banks for Christmas along with books entitled How to Make Your Money Grow. I remember being very young and him sitting with spreadsheets and lists showing us how compound interest works. Writing down scenarios of what happens to one person who has X amount of money and spends it vs. another person with the same amount of money who saves all of it and what their bank accounts look like after 40 years.

I appreciate all the lessons my parents taught me, but the one I have clung to most is to be me – follow my own path and embrace that I am an individual and to not let what others want or have influence my own wants and goals. I remember the day my dad told me “I’m sending you to college because I want you to have an education. You can study what you want to study and when you graduate you can be what you want to be. I am not going to tell you that I’ll only send you to college if you’ll become a doctor or make a huge salary when it’s over. I want you to have that experience. When it’s all over, if you want to work in a bubble gum factory because that is what makes you happy, then I will be happy.” I won’t EVER forget that conversation because until that day, I was sure my dad was a person of great expectations. I always thought I had something huge to live up to. That he wouldn’t be happy unless I owned my own business and made millions. But the day he let me know that my happiness is his happiness, my life changed.

I didn’t stop striving for things I wanted, but it did make me realize that my life is that – MINE. And I only get one chance so I better do what I want and not what anyone else does. I’m not so far off the beaten path that you can’t see me from the path but I’m not following it blindly either. I like a good bushwhack. Literally. Go hiking with me and you’ll find out I don’t follow paths 🙂

So here I am, 29 years old. My life, in many ways, is average. I got married, I have 2.3 kids, own a home. But I am totally going against the grain by NOT having a white picket fence. The horror! In all seriousness though, I do tend to do many of the things that are expected in life. But I do think I do them on my terms in my own unique way. I refuse to buy into the big beige box house with no charm. I refuse to buy a new car just because it’s the thing to do every couple of years. I blissfully go along in my not so typical existence – fixing up a crapshack, driving a 16 year old car, living my simple no frills and somewhat quirky existence.

My hubby – well, he’s WAY off the beaten path. I suppose I’ve dragged him from being miles into the woods on his own though. He’d love to just live on a boat while I homeschool our kids. He’d love to not have a single bill to pay. He hates that anyone like a boss or insurance company or anyone else can dictate what he needs to do with his everyday life. He really is, I think a loner at heart. He’ll go against the grain just to be contrary. Maybe I was attracted to that in him when we met. He was a loner rock climber – spending months in Nepal or Alaska or Yosemite eating raw potatoes for meals and sleeping on a portaledge off the face of a mountain at night. What I found adventurous and exciting then is a bit less practical now that we have a family and a house and he has a job that he gets up everyday to go to in order to support his family, but I know that spirit is still in him somewhere. And someday, we’ll dig it out and sail around the world together.. We’ll enjoy the path we’re on, tripping on rocks and branches along the way but never looking back wondering if we should’ve taken a different way.