You won’t find Carol Ziemer featured in a movie. I didn’t hear about her on the radio or find her story in a blog. A few years ago, I met Carol the old-fashioned way when I wandered into the Ziemer Gallery in Monticello, Ill., where her husband Larry is an artist with a brush while she practices the art of framing.
In 1970, Carol and Larry made a decision that changed their lives. They had a cute little boy named Nick and good jobs: Larry worked in an ad agency and Carol was a teacher. She described an ordinary existence, what many would call a good life with its typical scheduling challenges from workdays to evening dinners with friends to wanting to spend more time with their son.
How they handled those challenges was anything but typical. They paused. Carol and Larry realized they weren’t living the life they wanted, and they were ready for something different, whether others understood their new path or not. They saved some money and sold their house to fund a long journey in a station wagon and travel trailer up to Maine with little Nick; Larry would sell the paintings he created along the way.
On May 30, 1970, Carol started a journal for her son in Monticello, finishing it on August 24, 1970, in Maine. Inside the book’s cover are 84 pages of diary entries featuring people they met and the struggles of living on a tiny budget they’d organized into envelopes opened weekly and supplemented only by the money Larry made from his art. The couple returned to Monticello, and the Ziemer Gallery gradually filled with Larry’s paintings as well as local pottery and other items – including Carol’s small, comb-bound book, A Journal for Nick.
Pauses. Questions. The pursuit of happiness requires such things, even when starting a new chapter doesn’t involve changing a job or a zip code.
Life’s biggest secrets may be the personal truths we hide from ourselves. Gifts and enthusiasms are unique to the individual, and callings can change as often as we do. Stories like Carol’s suggest the answers to heavy questions may be discovered through action, and it’s never too late to ask whether you’re performing a beautiful script written for someone else.