Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive

Last Thursday was a long day. I was helping my sister with a project that I foolishly thought would end by 2 PM. However, I arrived home after 5:30 PM, and the day’s main event was yet to come.

Grace graduated from university in May, and she is taking a gap year to build clinical hours and apply to graduate school. The application process for her degree is rigorous and involves hoops that she has had to jump through, including admission interviews. Many schools have virtual interviews, but some require in-person attendance, including one school located in Cincinnati.  

My goal in raising my children is to support healthy growth and independence. I want to give them every chance to be successful in life. I define success as having a meaningful job while incorporating balance. I understand that fulfillment involves more than money or a particular career. However, having enough cash and a satisfying career goes a long way. Of course, other happiness factors include healthy relationships, a spiritual life, self-growth, and the incorporation of life experiences. 

When it comes to their happiness, I can only point them in a direction. Each of my kids is unique and what they value varies. Importantly, I understand that my goals and dreams for them may not be theirs. My challenge has always been understanding what I want for them vs. what they want. My age, maturity, and life experience give me an advantage over their youth and inexperience, which I want to share with them. However, it doesn’t give me a right to control their futures; that destiny is up to them.

Six PM on Thursday, and Grace and I were about to start our drive to her Friday interview. We would be staying across the Ohio River in Kentucky as a two-night stay at a Cincinnati Holiday Inn Express was clocking in at $550 before taxes, which included the school’s discount.  Kentucky was cheaper.

My initial feeling about the trip was negative, but that emotion was based on my driving for over 5 hours in the middle of the night. We would arrive at 12:30 AM Central Time or 1:30 AM Eastern Time. I fortified myself with a McDonald’s coffee and faced the challenge. I also consciously and deliberately started to reframe the experience.

Yes, driving a long distance in the middle of the night would be a drag, but there were many positives. I could choose to focus on the negative or redirect myself. Grace is an excellent traveling companion. She is intelligent, thoughtful, and informed. She is an independent kid who has some of my obsessive responsible characteristics; I don’t have to worry about her or her actions.  

The long drive gave us the chance to catch up and allowed me to learn just a little more about her. We filled our time talking and listening to podcasts. The long drive also allowed me to call my sisters and check in with them. In addition, it gave me a chance to test a new cell phone carrier called Visible. Visible resides on the Verizon network yet it is very cost-effective, but it has a few restrictions. My family currently uses T-Mobile, but its rural coverage is poor. I do a lot of boondocking, and Visible could be a viable secondary option to maintain communication with the outside world. I’m currently on a two-week free trial and have already tested the plan in rural Wisconsin with success. The trip to Cincinnati would allow me to check coverage in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.   

I hope you see the active path that I’m taking. I’m reframing a negative feeling and pushing it into the positive zone.  

What about other aspects of this adventure? Grace’s interview started at noon and was scheduled until 5 PM; what was I supposed to do during that time? Our hotel was too far from campus for me to return to it, and I was uncertain about the neighborhood where the school was located. I assessed some possibilities. I could explore Cincinnati, but I had already done this on several other trips. Anyway, it is more enjoyable for me to do those types of activities when accompanied by others. I could tackle some hiking trails, and I have done that in the past, but I didn’t want to leave Grace hanging if her interviews ended early. I wanted to be there to support her and help her process her feelings about the school.  

As a physician, I have to complete many hours of CME (Continuing Medical Education) credits every licensing period. In the past, it was necessary to travel to conferences and meetings, but with the advent of the World Wide Web, CMEs are as close as my laptop. I would go to the school’s library and work on some CMEs when Grace was in her interviews. I would choose to be productive rather than bored. 

The university’s campus was small but charming. Founded by the Sisters of Charity in the 1920s, most of the campus now had a decidedly 1970s look with light brick architecture and a mid-century post-modern style. There was a Catholic feel that I found comforting. I have attended secular schools for most of my education, and the sight of some religious imagery gave me a sense of peace. It appeared to be a  school that taught values in addition to facts. 

A helpful groundskeeper directed me to the library, and with my messenger bag in hand, I entered. The room was expansive, with large tables and enormous windows that streamed in soft diffused light. I found a study carrel in a hidden corner, connected to wifi, and went to work. After about 4 hours of intense learning, my old brain had had it. I was ready for a break, and luckily Violet, the campervan, was prepared to accommodate me. I strolled to her, grabbed a cold Diet Coke from her fridge, and lounged on her bed. Soon, I received a text message from Grace that her long interview was over. It was time to pick her up.

That evening we dined at an iconic Cincinnati classic, Skyline Chili. Then off to our room to talk, watch TV, and rest for our morning drive back to Chicago. Our return trip was a repeat of our earlier drive and just as delightful. We were back in Naperville by mid-afternoon Saturday, exhausted but happy.

I write this to remind myself and to encourage you. Just about everything has both a positive and negative side. Some people are proficient at focusing on the negative, no matter the event. These folks can turn anything into a burden by finding potential disasters or inconveniences at every turn. I choose to be different and consciously work on seeing the positives in life. Driving to Cincinnati in the middle of the night was a drag, but the benefits far outweighed the negatives. Grace has received positive responses to her graduate school applications, and she is confident that she will be going to grad school after her gap year. That is wonderful. Spending time with her is always positive, and it feels terrific to be supportive of her. In addition, I personally benefited by knocking out hours of CMEs when I was captive on campus.   Lastly, I got to test out some technology and travel in Violet. I love the idea of taking my little house on wheels with me wherever I go.

I would encourage you to focus on the positives of your life. You have control over how you feel and how you react to situations. You can choose to live a life filled with negativity and drama or one of productive expectation. At the end of the day, I always try to take that fork in the road.



The mid-century campus had a decidedly Catholic feel.
The library had large windows that streamed in soft diffuse light.

Just a fun reminder!