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What Paths Life Takes - The Good Men Project

Everyone has their own opinions about how life is supposed to unfold. Some say whatever is meant to be, will be. others say we have to have a plan before we can chase our dreams.

Then there are those who simply take things as they come. If there’s a plan, that’s great. If there isn’t, they make it up as they go along. There’s no real direction, but there isn’t a lack of ambition, either.

Where do we fall on the delicate line between those who go after what they want and those who let things happen? How do we know if we’re being too passive or too headstrong? More importantly, what happens when we start to think there’s only one way to get to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

I didn’t have a blueprint. There wasn’t a master plan, except to write – and keep writing, no matter what happened after I graduated from college. It wasn’t a promise I made to myself. Nor was it one I had been held to. It was, however, a feeling that never faded. The fire kept burning bright, even though there were some people who tried to put it out.

The flames of determination and desire rose so high inside of me I couldn’t ignore them anymore. I never pushed them to the side, but they did, however, become part of a much bigger picture. I finally knew what to do with everything I’d learned in life so far – and now had the resources I needed, but I waited to see if the right opportunities came along. And they did.

I began to receive offers to write for small publications, within roughly six months after graduating from Penn State Altoona on my own terms. I was surprised but very humbled at the same time. I didn’t have much to show for myself in terms of compelling articles or noteworthy accomplishments in the writing industry. The only thing I had was my small column in The Altoona Mirror – which had only been running for a few short months. In that time, my work had garnered the respect of my local community and people started to look forward to reading one article every month.

This was no longer about my cerebral palsy. I didn’t have to write simply to prove myself anymore – at least not to anyone in my hometown who read my column. I could write because I loved doing it – a privilege which I felt I earned. I wanted to eventually reach a broader audience, but in this moment, I just wanted to take in the fact I was writing on a monthly basis. Little did I know, everything I wanted as a writer, journalist, and poet was going to come to me in waves.

In 2010, I began the editing process for To Cope and to Prevail, the autobiography of Dr. Ilse-Rose Warg, my former German professor at Penn State Altoona. I had never edited a book before, nor did I know how to read anything written in another language. I wasn’t particularly looking for an editing project, either.

I knew I had to help when she told me she was working on the book for many years, but it fell by the wayside because she didn’t have an Editor. I could tell her hopes of finishing and publishing the book were deflated, with every word of broken English she spoke.

The agreement to embark on such a huge undertaking started a year earlier, when I took a class she designed to teach me how to read German, to ensure I had enough foreign language credits to graduate. Ironically, Dr. Warg noticed my passion for writing as well as my willingness to learn.

“You put words together very well, Erin,” she said before asking if I would be interested in editing her book.

“Oh, thank you,” I replied innocently.

I had no idea how long the book was, but I was confident in my skill and knowledge of English grammar and syntax. I agreed to step in as her Editor, not knowing she was writing the book in English – as well as in German. I paused and asked myself, “How am I going to do this?”

It was the same question I had asked myself countless times, but I had an answer now. Two years, many grueling hours and almost 300 pages later, the book was finished and available for the world to read. Having my name listed in the book as Editor was an accomplishment I didn’t expect, which made the project even more meaningful. I saw my professor as just that – a teacher – before coming onboard to do this. Now, I see her as someone who endured a tremendous amount of pain, sacrifice and struggle to build the life she once could only dream of.

Taking this project on was admittedly the biggest challenge for me. The fact it happened right after college didn’t make it any easier, but it prepared me for the relentless daily pace that comes with my line of work. It also made me a better writer and human being. I’ll never be able to repay Dr. Warg.

You can tell yourself there’s only one way to do something. You can travel that path for a while, too. When something risky comes along, however, don’t turn away until you see the impact it can have. You might be missing out on the best thing in your life.

What’s your take? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.

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