Friday, December 31, 2004

Final thought of the year- Divergence

To wrap up the year, it's an appropriate time to ask "what if" about some of the logical breakpoints in my life. Mind you, I'm happy with the road followed. But simple, small decisions made can have major ramifications down the road. We're not talking decisions on the scale of "toast or cereal for breakfast"-type stuff. Here's a few of the questions I occasionally (especially on New Year's Eve) like to ask myself:

What if:

- The girl I dated the year before I met Jane had lived closer to Boston? She was in Milford - that was one of the reasons it didn't last long-term. I had no car, and she did. Would it have lasted longer?

- I hadn't decided to leave school at the beginning of 1987? I met Jane at the job I took after that decision.

- Some other computer store had offered me a job first? I was also trying to get a job with Businessland and the old Nynex computer store chain - BU offered me a job first, so that's where I went.

- I'd stuck with bicycle repair as a means to earn a living instead of computers? I know I'd weigh less, that's for sure.

- Jane had taken the job offer in Pittsburgh that she'd gotten instead of moving to Boston? Who'd she be with today, and who would I have eventually met (if anyone)?

- I never took the summer job at day camp that I did after my senior year in high school and my freshman year in college? As virtually all of you who read this know, I had a tough time making friends before then - and I met a whole different group of people and got a clean start out of it, socially.

- We didn't buy our house 12 years ago? Could we afford to even have a home now?

- The insurance company I worked for all those years had other suitors besides the company in Illinois that bought them (the second biggest insurance company in Bloomington!). What if they'd taken one of the other deals, or stayed independent?

- I had two colleges I was accepted by that I really was interested in going to: Northeastern and the University of Maine (I also tried for the University of Vermont - my first choice - but they ixnayed me). I picked Northeastern. What if I'd headed up to Orono instead?

There's others, too, but those are some of the more interesting ones. It's not something I generally dwell upon, but the end of a year is a neat time to think and ask yourself "I wonder what..." about your life. Breakpoints are generally not something you recognize at the time. A decision as mundane as "where to go to college" doesn't seem important at the time, but it turns out to have huge ramifications down the road. For instance, by going to college in Boston instead of Maine, I wound up making friends with many of the people who are my closest friends today, meeting my wife, and settling down close by. It also directed me into my profession, as I was influenced by winding up in a dorm with a bunch of engineers and computer science majors. Before college, I was focused on theater and what ultimately became known as "extreme sports" - I was a mountain biker and a rock climber before it was fashionable. Maybe my life would have stayed on that track if I'd gone to Maine.

You can never know the answer to these questions, of course - that's part of the fun. But the sheer randomness of life and the way things can turn up as a result of free will are the things that make life worthwhile. Sure, making different choices at some of these breakpoints would have given me a different life. But the cool thing is that I like this life. And after the ball drops in New York and I hit the sack, I'll wake up in the morning to just the life that's right for me. In 2005.

See you all next year.

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