So much of what happens in our lives turns on the smallest decisions we make along the way. When confronted with a fork in the road we often give little thought to whether we go left or right but even the most simple decisions can dramatically affect the course of our entire lives. Or, as often happens the choices are not in our hands, such as a tragic car accident. Have you ever thought about what your life would be like today if you’d made a different choice many years ago or if events had taken a different turn. While this is a shell game of sorts, I prefer to look on my own forks in the road from a positive perspective. A lot of my reflections on these hypothetical situations arise from my relationships with guys I thought I loved when I was young. At the ripe age of nineteen I was sure I wanted to marry my boyfriend at that time who was sweet, kind and hardworking. As it happens, I moved on and he married someone else not long after. He was not a complicated or professionally ambitious person and only wanted to have a decent job, get married and have a family. Tragically, he had a stroke at the age of twenty-one that left him paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. His then-wife left him.
A couple of years later I thought I was in love and wanted to marry someone I met while traveling in Europe on my Eurailpass. He was in the American military stationed in Germany during the height of the Vietnam war in 1967-68. A few days in Paris with someone tall, dark and handsome at an age when your hormones are in overdrive is hardly sensible decision-making material. If I’d married him, I’d be living in a depressed suburb of Detroit today as the wife of a retired or layed-off Ford assembly-line worker – if I’d stuck it out, which is highly unlikely. Later on, I almost married an abusive womanizer and that possibility still fills me with horror.
When I left school, I worked for Bell Telephone for six years until one day I impulsively left at noon and told them I wouldn’t be back. I have certainly never regretted that move. I later worked for a much more progressive company that gave me the opportunity to soar. Or what about the decision I made at the age of 40 to not have a child as a single mother. I’ll never know whether I really made the right decision about that one, and even though I look around me at problems faced by friends with grown children and grandchildren, I’m still wistful about the direction I chose.
Many years later my entire life took a complete 180 degree turn in one evening when I accepted an invitation to dinner with my current husband whom I’d known for thirty years at the time. Never imagining the outcome, it was a life-changing event. A friend met her husband in Sierra Leone when his plane was diverted there while enroute to BiafraÂ for a CUSO volunteer mission more than 40 years ago. That single decision by the pilot during the flight changed both their lives forever.
Life is a series of such twists and turns and while we will never know what might have been, one thing I’m sure of is that those choices and their consequences are what make us the interesting, multi-faceted people we are today. We have a few miles on us. Some choices might have been better but even the poor choices are enriching for their lessons learned. When I hear people wish to regain their youth and so-called glory days, I’m shocked. I wouldn’t want to go back even a day. As the old saying goes, we’re still on the right of the sod and it doesn’t get any better than that.