I have been asked why I chose the side trails when I’m hiking. You know the ones; the ones that are no more than 8 inches wide, branches covering most of the trail, and you are not sure where they lead. In part, it’s the thrill of the unknown. It’s not marked on the map, but there’s a tug at my heart that says “Go!”
The main trail is well established, proven to be worth the effort, walked by thousands, and appreciated by many. The side trail is passed by with the thought “Hmm, I wonder what it’s like, maybe I’ll look it up later.” Growing up, my life was similar to the side trail. I was not raised in a white picket fence house where Mom and Dad were there to tuck me into bed every night. My parents did not work the 9-5 jobs that allowed them to be at home together. I was raised by two, hard-working parents who spent long hours at their job. My mom missed holidays to save lives while my dad worked 3rd shift to give us the life he wanted to give us.
My brother came alone in their first year of marriage. Two years later they learned about his autism, a challenge they were not prepared for. Two years after the diagnosis, my mother struggled with fertility and miscarriages. She was about to give up, when she finally became pregnant with me. My life was different from the ordinary road; I don’t even know what the ordinary trail of life looks like. I don’t know what it’s like to see your brother not get bullied from teachers, to be told he was useless by the school system. In adulthood, I don’t know what it’s like to have nieces or nephews, to watch my brother marry the love of his life, or simply move out.
But the side trail of life, despite the branches covering the trail and it not being mapped, was pretty great. What I did get to see was dedication for a better life from my parents, a brother who loves me more than anything, and myself glowing with pride when he accomplishes tasks. I learned about sacrifice, love, and patience. I learned that when you love someone so much you will stop at nothing to make them happy. That is my life with my brother. My parents taught me to be passionate, and I chose my brother to be my passion. No, the side trail isn’t well-mapped out and you don’t know where you’ll end up. But, I have embraced my side trail life, and I wouldn’t change a thing to make it a main-trail kind of life.