My dad came home one Sunday afternoon and announced, with a big smile, that my sister, Joey, and I were spending the summer in London! He paused for effect. He could not have picked a more unappreciative daughter to spring this one on. I had fully intended to spend the entire summer dating as many prospective husbands as I possibly could. In fact, one was sitting on the chair across from me when this announcement came.
Regardless of my reticence, my sister and I made all the preparations. This was a study abroad program which actually included a curriculum. We quickly brushed up on the British Isles history, took a test after finishing some assignments and worked on the cultural aspect. The passports were rushed and arrived a few days before departure, packed WAAAYYY too many clothes, forgot the umbrella but quickly acquired one within the first couple of hours and held our itineraries, transportation maps and tour info close by. We tried really, really hard to not look American because, apparently, that's a bad thing. But tennis shoes really ARE the most comfortable walking footwear.
After all the preparation, I thought we were pretty well armed to take on the world, or at least London. We were making sense of the tube stations and had stopped giggling whenever anybody asked us for a "fag." In fact, I was feeling downright arrogant one day when we exited the Leicester Square tube station and I felt something warm and drippy on my shoulder.
Nowhere, in any guide book (or internet - had it existed in that year) was I warned of the hazards of pigeons. They were suddenly everywhere and I found myself much more cautious stepping out of the tube stations. I also walked further from the buildings than was necessary which put me in danger of being hit by a car driving on the wrong side of the road on a street that was clearly built for a carriage hundreds of years ago.
This was not all, of course. I found that when I blew my nose, my snot came out black because the air was so dirty since we were in a city. Yet another hazard I was not prepared to endure. Fortunately, germs haven't ever been my downfall. Being late has, however. Did you know that the subway doors close ON YOU if don't move in or out. It will close if your bags are out and you are in or the other way around. This can be quite unfortunate.
Basically, all of the preparation was for experience rather than to avoid the downfalls of living in London.
It's nearly 24 years later. I don't travel to London or even anyplace unless it is a store that ends in "co" or someplace involving a school. But I want to remember how much I prepared for my life. I sacrificed a few things and made the choices I made to be where I am today. I went to college and went to college some more. I learned and graduated then worked and learned some more. I was a very good girl and was virginal and pure. I prepared myself for supporting my family, put off getting married, waited to have children, helped put my husband through graduate school, read my scriptures daily, attended church services weekly, obeyed all the major commandments, taught my children righteous living at a young age and now I am in my forties, my children are growing, I'm still working and the epiphany hits.
Pigeons still poo.
It doesn't matter how much I prepared, planned, sacrificed, prayed. There are still hazards I didn't plan for and dangers I didn't see. There are circumstances I didn't imagine and no matter how much I worry, plan and pray, crap still happens.
I fight with my husband. My children make messes, both physical and metaphorical. There are bad grades, back talking, OCD, problems at work, frustration at never having a clean house, another set of sheets peed on, throw up to clean up, cement sinking, oil dripping, cancer diagnosis, face wrinkles, saggy butt and loose belly, posters to be made for school, dentist appointments to keep, stocking the house with food and necessities, and a million other ways to push a schedule off kilter that I can't foresee or plan. Because those pigeons will continue to poo and I can either become bitter because I believed the sales pitch that if I just [fill in the blank], life will be easier on me because [fill in the blank] makes me special or I take the risks of the unseen hazards and walk out of the tube station even though the pigeons are roosting on the ledge.
Because sometimes they'll hit me and sometimes they'll miss. And I'm going to still believe I'm special because I choose to take the gamble every day.