Major Turning Points

While doing revisions on a manuscript recently, I got to thinking about my turning points. Of course I wanted them to be significant, and to propel the characters, preferably kicking and screaming, into the next act of the story. Then I began to focus on major turning points, because all turning points are not major. That got me to thinking, what about those major turning points in my own life? What about in yours? Are there moments in your journey through life that you recognize as having been major turning points? They could be emotional, physical, or historical.             

I can remember three:

The first one was President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. I was at home, in Australia, just a young girl, still in high school. I heard it on the radio and went to awaken my parents. My dad was stunned. I’d been known to make up stories, and at first he didn’t believe me. To me it was unthinkable. If a President, with his bodyguards and his entourage, could be killed in cold blood like that…what about me? I was acutely aware of how fleeting life could be.

The second time was my divorce. I was shocked about my husband’s infidelity and stunned that I did not know that he no longer loved me. I was painfully aware of how fleeting love and commitment could be.

The third time was the 9/11 attacks. I sat in front of the television and wept for the tragedy of it, and the insanity of it. I wept for all of those people who lost their lives and for the loved ones they left behind. I was aware of how emotionally devastating the loss of a loved one could be.

We all take our journey for granted at times, but I know my three turning points helped me to stop and to look at my life: once as a teenager, once as a young wife and mother, and once as a middle aged woman. I assessed where I was in my journey and how I wanted to proceed. Each of those points shook me at my core, and they caused major changes in what had maybe become a journey that was too ordinary.  From each of those turning points I made specific choices about what I wanted to achieve in life. I’m not sorry about any one of my choices. Each one has brought me to where I am today; a happy, fulfilled, creative, and very blessed person.

What about you? Are there major turning points in your life that you can pinpoint?

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22 Responses to Major Turning Points

  1. Hi Robena – your turning points are huge ones. I’m thinking of small but mighty things that changed my life – for instance The decision at 26 to go back to school – this took my life in a totally different direction. It also led to another seemingly small decision, but one that totally changed my life. Instead of staying at the hospital I’d been working for while getting my RN degree, I opted to transfer to another hospital. Simple decision, right? Within a month I was introduced to my future husband by a lady I never would have never met had I stayed at the other hospital.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Isn’t it strange to look back over our lives and wonder what would have happened had we not turned right at the fork in the road, and instead had gone left?
      I’m glad you met your hubs. He’s a keeper. : 0

  2. I have three turning points in my life, so I’ll try to be brief…not my strong suit.

    The first was leaving my previous husband. He was physically and mentally abusive. The day after I left him I took the written test to become a Los Angeles Police Officer. That decision changed my life in so many ways. I must say that, given the chance, I would NOT rewrite history and not have married him. I learned SO many life lessons in that marriage, I’m actually grateful I experienced it.

    The second turning point was when I saw my present husband (before we were married) on the news. He is a police officer and was involved in a bad traffic accident. We’d been dating and had broken up for several months. When I saw the news report (and the mangled police car) I realized how much I cared for him. I went and saw him that same night and we’ve been together for over 20 years. He is my rock and such a good man. I’m sorry he was in an accident that left him with permanent back injuries, but so grateful the accident was bad enough that it made the news. As a quick side note: I’d never heard officer’s names announced on a news broadcast reporting a traffic collision prior, and I haven’t heard it done since…something more than fate was at work there.

    The final turning point was making the decision to self-publish my books. So far, I’ve found this to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It took a lot of guts to do something that most people were looking over their shoulder and whispering about…it’s still not accepted in some circles. But I’ve got 100,000 sales that affirm to me it was the right choice.

    Thanks for a great post that made me evaluating some milestones in my life.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Kathy, those are awesome turning points. Thanks for sharing, and yeah, that #2 was meant to be. That’s got all the makings of a great love story. : )
      And good for you on the self-pubbing. Way to go!!!!

  3. Hi Robena.
    I agree about Kennedy’s assassination and 911 and for me personally was when my father insisted on raising his family in Ca. We moved from New York when I was seven years old. It was a huge change for the better and changed all of our lives. Lastly and recently was the birth of my little granddaughter. She has changed our life for the better too!! Major turning points!

    • Robena Grant says:

      Lovely, Charlene. It makes me wonder always, if somehow some things are fated. Why did your father choose CA? Why did I choose to come to the U.S?
      Yesterday I drove through the back streets of the San Fernando Valley to get to our meeting. I drove past two houses I’d viewed in Sherman Oaks, before I bought the one prior to moving to the desert. It made me wonder what my life would have been like if I’d chosen either one of those houses. : )

  4. I know of at least two without even thinking about it.
    My first divorce I was stunned to learn that all the fairy tale crap about love conquering everything was a myth.
    My major focus in life had been direct activism for 5 years when I suddenly realized; we weren’t getting anywhere and I was spending my life angry. I came to understand that I just needed to live the change I wanted to see rather than trying to force it on others.
    OT – Great interview with Jenny Crusie for LARA RWA! I loved it.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Judy, it sounds like you have met some major challenges/TP’s and made some serious changes in your life. I love the idea of living the changes you want to see.
      Thanks for your comment on my interview with Jenny. : ) I’m proud of how it turned out but was nervous as hell interviewing her (thank goodness for email, never could have done it in person.)

  5. Maria says:

    Oh, turning points in my own life, there have been a few. The first and most dramatic was the death of my baby brother when he was an infant and I was five. It changed our family in ways that I’ll never know where we’d have been if that hadn’t happened.

    The next was the death of my beloved grandmother when I was eleven. She was the person I turned to more than even my own mother. It took most of my teen years for my mom and I to work out our differences, but she is now one of my best friends. I sometimes think that grandma’s death had to happen for mom and I to become what we are today.

    9/11 on a personal scale. At the time I lived down in San Diego and within three months had given my notice and decided to move back up to Orange County and Los Angeles where all of my immediate family lived. The decision to move back home changed the trajectory of my life, and from it, I started writing again and joined LARA, etc….

    Strange how my all of my major turning points involve death, but in some ways that feels normal. Things must end in order for new things to begin.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Maria, I did not know half of that about you. Like that you only moved back to L.A. after the 9/11 attacks. I had assumed you had lived there all of your life. : ) And yes, I agree that it is interesting how death, painful as it is to overcome the loss of a loved one, sometimes opens another door for us.

  6. Nan says:

    The first one I remember is when my Dad left us–I was so angry with my mom for making him go (I was 6 and didn’t understand that he was unfaithful) and very sad that I couldn’t go with him. I realized much later in life that he didn’t really want me with him and that my mom loved me beyond words.

    Second was when Son was born–I thought I knew what it meant to love another person when I got married, but I had no clue. Mom love again hit me like a ton of bricks. And in the same turning point, when I had to love him enough to allow him to grow up and move so far away.

    Third was being brave enough to start writing, which also meant being brave enough to put my work out for the world to see and to blog and promote and believe that I am a great writer…a huge turning point because I never much believed I was a great anything at all.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Yes, Nan, that mom love is a biggie. We just have no idea until they arrive, and then when they become independant of us and move on to their own lives and loves and families it takes a ton of courage to set them free. : )

  7. londonmabel says:

    Hmm… I did this exercise years ago–the Dr Phil equivalent: “life decisions.” Not sure I would pick out the same ones anymore, though.

  8. Robena Grant says:

    Oh, Dr. Phil did this? Yes, maybe some of our turning points seem dramatic or important at the time but on reflection not so much. I always thought one of mine was moving to the U.S. from Australia at age twenty-three, and not knowing a soul in the country. Forty years later it isn’t a biggie at all. ; )

  9. Kelly says:

    I have several – like many people here. Every time we moved countries when I was a kid was a HUGE turning point. From England to Australia back to England back to Australia (that screwed me up royally). I then moved to Israel for 11 years and then finally to America 8 years ago. But the BIGGEST turning point for me was as a journalist in Israel. I went on a press junket to Kenya and landing up surviving an Al Qaeda suicide bombing attack in Mombasa on November 28, 2002. Were it not for surviving that attack (when 12 other people were killed); spending a year in intensive PTSD trauma counselling, I would never have given up my job as an editor and reporter in the Middle East and moved to Los Angeles. I would never have found the supportive creative writing groups here – ESPECIALLY LARA and RWA, nor would I have focused so intently now on novel writing (something I’d always wanted to do but was tough in Israel with no support groups really and no real publishing world to speak of). I’m still a journalist here but not putting my life (literally) on the line every day. I’m a calmer person for it and it’s allowed me to focus on my romance writing. I feel very, very blessed that I’ve literally been given a second chance. Once through the PTSD counselling and the guilt and the pain and the existential angst, I can’t believe I’ve emerged whole with a brand new lease on life. I’m carpe diem-ing all over the place. Oh, and I LOVE living in Los Angeles. When people ask me why I chose to move to L.A. I said I wanted to move to a place where the news didn’t matter!

    • Robena Grant says:

      That’s an amazing story, Kelly. What an adventurous life you’ve led. I remember the suicide bombings in Mombasa. To think of you going through that is awful. I’m so glad you found a way to move out of danger, and that you also love L.A. I do too. : ) And yes, writing can help us all in so many ways, from helping us to sort out our thoughts, to deal with tragedy, to building a fantasy world that speaks to us. All good stuff.

  10. Kelly says:

    And, of course, the death of my father when I was 19; watching my sister go through a kidney transplant 5 years ago… but I digress. I’m amazed at everyone’s incredible stories. What a great idea for a post – Robena. And now I want to know where in Australia you grew up? I lived in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney.

    • Robena Grant says:

      There are some wonderful stories here, and I’m learning stuff today that I never knew about some of my chapter mates.

      I pretty much grew up in the Hunter Valley. We moved there when I was eleven. I did schooling, and RN training, and then ICU training at the Sydney Hospital in Macquarie Street, from there I moved to the U.S. and never went back home to live although I visit often (have a huge family and my mother is also there.) I love Australia, but I married and divorced an American and have two wonderful adult children here. So I stay. : )

  11. Tom Attwood says:

    Thanks to everyone for sharing their turning points. I had four…
    1. The birth of my children – I was there for all six of them. Being a dad
    completely changed my how I thought, how I acted. I watched two of
    my sons go through the same thing, and one of my daughters.
    2. The two week period when my life came apart – divorce became final,
    the one kid who was staying with me got arrested for armed robbery,
    and I learned it was to support his huge drug empire (no wonder his
    grades dropped), broke my leg the second time in a motorcycle
    accident, and the start-up I was working in told me I was on my own.
    Out of all this disaster I managed to bring my consulting practice to a full
    time business, which is how i’ve made my money for the last 35 years. I
    still have issues, never got counselling for it.
    3. I met this wonderful girl, see… I’d been running in the bay to
    breakers, and I had no idea why I stopped at our ski club dance, or
    why I sat at that particular table… Twenty seven years later we’re
    still together, though I can’t always figure out why.
    4. The day my brother shot himself. Though it was painful, good came out
    of it, unbelieveably enough – it reunited my family. No matter how bad
    things got, all of us knew we’d never cause that much hell for anyone
    else.

    The big things – Kennedy, Nine Eleven, Martin Luther King – those were
    shared, and they changed everybody. Anyone who was aware knew where they were and how they changed, but we all did. The four things above were turning points that changed the course of my life.

    • Robena Grant says:

      Wow! Thanks for sharing, Tom. You have had more than your share of emotional trauma in your life, yet have overcome and moved on to create new and in many ways better situations.

      I love that thought of being like the tree that can bend with the wind and not be broken. Even sometimes when a limb snaps off, the tree just heals the wound and stands tall and reaches again for the sun. Uh, oh. I’m getting all weird again. : )

  12. Wow – great post. I can’t believe the turning points listed here … some major life changes. Mine are all very minor in comparison!!

    1) Getting married – and maybe more specifically, falling in love. You change a lot when it’s not just about you anymore …

    2) Having a child – I don’t think I’ve learned more about myself than in the last 11 years with my son … makes you see yourself in an entirely different light and makes you realize how critical these years are to shaping him as an adult!

    3) Joining my local RWA chapter – I wouldn’t be writing still if I hadn’t done that.

    Love this post!!

    • Robena Grant says:

      Hi, Nikki. So happy you stopped by. I agree with you on all three of those turning points. Having children was a huge one for me, and I think my kids made me a better more loving person. ; )