It's Never What We Expect It to Be - by Nisanda Albaugh

If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that life is never what you expect it to be.  For instance, I never thought I’d live to be 81. All the members of my original family died young, so by the time I reached 60 I had made peace with the fact that my life on earth could possibly be coming to a close. Now I find myself 20 years later looking back and doing a “life review” and wondering, “now what?”  

In high school I wasn’t allowed to follow my passion and take mechanical drawing and shop, so I took the required cooking and sewing classes. As the principal’s daughter I was told it was up to me to set an example and follow the program, so I did.  I continued doing the “right thing,” going to college and getting a BA and a teaching credential, only to find that I really didn’t like teaching in the traditional school system.

After raising two children and ending a 24-year marriage, I was at a loss about how to find my place in the world. I had been taking classes toward my master’s degree and needed a job, but I soon learned that the Education Department didn’t allow students to continue their education and also work.  So…

I dropped out of college, wrote my very first resume and was soon asked to start a program for 29 adults who needed educating. They were being released from the soon-to-be-closed Stockton Institution for the Mentally Insane, the first public mental health institution in California, and my job was to create a school-room situation for them. It meant hiring a staff, writing learning programs and teaching students with mild to severe handicaps, none of which I’d done before. It was deemed a huge success by the students, parents and community, and I remember it with fondness as fun and a great learning situation for us all. 

When I knew I was done with this part of my life, I sold our beautiful new solar home on the river, got rid of most of what I owned, packed the back of my pick-up with the things that were really important to me, and got on the road for parts unknown. Since then I have pretty much followed my heart and done what I wanted to do. I’ve traveled across the country alone, camped in the middle of nowhere, lived in a commune, worked as a wedding consultant in Massachusetts in facilities built in the 1600s and spent eight years with an organization building senior co-housing in California.  

My past is rushing toward me now as my ex-husband makes plans to come visit us. He can’t climb stairs; since my house is the only one in the family that is stairless, guess where he will be staying. There are things that we didn’t heal during our marriage and many we’ve both worked on since then. This is a great opportunity for healing.  I wonder if it will be what we expect it to be? 

Nisanda Albaugh

Nisanda Albaugh