Paths Not Taken

Recently, a colleague of mine posted something on Facebook about a conversation she had been having with her friend. While not party to the discussion they had, she posed the follow question to Facebook: “What would your life be like now if you had taken a different path?” I provided one example in response, but since this is something that I am often thinking about, I thought I might sit down and examine some of my life choices I have made during my life, and weigh what I might have gained from taking the “path less traveled,” as well as consider what I would have missed out on from the path actually traveled.

The decisions made will cover numerous different areas of my life: the opposite sex, education, work, and other opportunities. Since I lack the ability to time travel and can’t go back and make these decisions in real time, the alternate realities may end up being what I viewed as a best case scenario or even pure conjecture or imagination. This is by no means a scientific study after all. We’ll start at the earliest decision point and work our way forward to about four months ago.

Decision #1 – In sixth grade, I refused to take the test to take “Gifted and Talented” (GT) classes in junior high.

Alternate DecisionTake the test of course and wind up with the smart kids throughout junior high.

I don’t think this decision had as great an impact as future education choices, but it was still a conscious decision that I made. After starting in the GT program in third grade, I had spent four years with minimal turnover in classmates. In elementary school, maybe it doesn’t matter as much, but I was going to junior high, meshing with kids from other elementary schools, and for some reason, I wanted to see some different faces. Sure, I wasn’t the only kid in that sixth grade class that didn’t take the test. And I remember my teacher being upset that I didn’t take the test. At the time, I thought it was because she didn’t like me; in reality, I think she just wanted us all to be super awesome. Nevertheless, I returned to the “normal” track in junior high, away from a lot of friends, but I also was able to meet some new people. All in all, it probably wasn’t a bad idea.

Alternate Reality Positives: Better prepared for high school, easier placement in honors classes in high school (I still got in)

Alternate Reality Negatives: No new friends, though in hindsight, I’m not in touch with hardly anyone that I met during my “normal” junior high days

Decision #2 – Crushed a lot throughout school but never did anything about it

Alternate Decision: At least put myself out there to get rejected

From seventh grade through the rest of high school, every year was marked by a crush:

  1. 7th Grade – Mandi
  2. 8th Grade – Emily
  3. 9th Grade – Anastasia
  4. 10th Grade – Mostly Megan, but some Julia thrown in during the summer
  5. 11th Grade – Hmm… there was a different Mandy that I liked that went crazy when I started to think we could be bf/gf
  6. 12th Grade – Joanna

Unfortunately, nothing ever came of any of these crushes, at least not romantically. If I remember correctly, I was slightly bold in 7th grade when I left an anonymous note for Mandi professing that I liked her in her mailbox or something (she lived on the street behind me. I could literally watch her come home out my bedroom window. Stalker-y). As mentioned in the linked post on Emily, I sent her an anonymous rose on Valentine’s Day which she thanked me for at the end of the school year in my yearbook, and even told me to call her. I never did. Anastasia is a special case even to this day, one that I might explore in length some other time, but the linked post indicates that I made some kind of move but was rejected. Didn’t prevent me from riding my bike by her house during the summer that year though.

Once I got to high school, and actually at a point where “dating” made a little more sense, I still just admired girls from afar. I didn’t want to have sex or anything. I just wanted someone to write dumb notes to during class. And maybe second base. To this day, 10th grade Megan is probably my best friend. The other Mandy flaked out when I started to act a little more interested then she was ready for. And Joanna, the only girl that I took to more than one high school dance, let me down easy on the way to a movie screening at the Sundance Film Festival.

Alternate Reality Positives: Maybe a girlfriend during my teens? An ability to talk to women now? Finding the love of my life at an early age and being able to focus on everything else? Second base? Who knows.

Alternate Reality Negatives: Teenage heartache and embarrassment, pushing me further back into my shell…

Decision #3 – Went to Weber State because I had a scholarship

Alternate Decision – Go somewhere else to get the real college experience or join the Army right out of high school.

When it came time to apply for college, I applied to five schools: the University of Utah, Weber State, Southern Utah, Westminster College, and Clarke College. I was accepted at all five. I was also considering joining the Army to drive tanks, but felt that, for some reason, smart people go to college and don’t join the Army, especially when they have a scholarship. Plus, it didn’t help that my recruiter was kind of a dumb ass.

When it came down to choosing a school, I really wanted to go to Southern Utah, primarily because it was far away and would require me to live there. Unfortunately, no scholarship and no college savings meant that it would have been all financial aid, so I eliminated it as an option. I received partial scholarships from Westminster and Clarke, but they are both private schools and would have required me to come up with $20,000 a year or so to go there. Plus, Clarke was in Iowa and wouldn’t let me have a car on campus until I was a junior. It came down the the U of U and Weber, and I chose Weber based on the strength of the full-year tuition scholarship I had received.

Instead of living on campus, which would have made way more sense, I commuted the first year. It sucked. My grades suffered as a result, and I wasn’t entrenched in the college community as I should have been. If I could do it all again, I would have just gone to SUU or the U but lived on campus for at least the first couple of years. All my friends seemed to have fun doing that, and I think I would have too. And if I had gone to the U, I could have kept in touch with Ms. 9th Grade Crush…

Alternate Reality Positives: Better performance in school; could have met all sorts of neat people in the dorms

Alternate Reality NegativesEven more student loan debt to pay for college

Decision #4 – Moved to Connecticut

Alternate DecisionStay in Utah

I was in love. Who can blame me? She wasn’t going to move here, and I wanted to be with her. So I moved across the country and spent the next decade away from my family and friends. I made new friends of course, but every time I came back to visit, they would ask when I was coming back. While I was married, it wasn’t happening, which is why I almost moved back after I got divorced in 2008. However, in the preceding seven years, I had been adopted into another family.

My time in the Army ended on a different note than I had planned, but one of the reasons I stayed in Connecticut was the relationship that I had formed with the Soldiers in my unit. Plus, I wanted to prove that I didn’t just move to Connecticut for the ex-wife. So I stuck around, and when we were alerted to deploy, I had to stay. Couldn’t abandon my new family before they went off to war, so I stuck around a bit longer. Probably one of my better decisions.

Long story short: do I regret moving to Connecticut? Not at all. But it’s easy to say that now after all the great relationships I built over the past decade.

Alternate Reality PositivesRemained closer with my Utah friends; could have established and found a direction in my life sooner.

Alternate Reality NegativesWouldn’t have met Army peeps, some that are close friends to this day; missed out on spending seven years with a wonderful person

These obviously aren’t the only choices that I have ever made. There are numerous points in my life where a major decision could have been made that could have affected the course of events. It was a fun little experiment, and something that helps me meet the requirement of writing an hour a day. Did I expect to write 1600 words about this? Not really. But it is still a fun little experiment.

Until next time…

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