There was a movie a few years ago called “Sliding Doors” about a woman who experienced several different outcomes of a single event of her life, based on whether or not she reached a set of subway car doors before or after they closed when she was on her way home.
Whether you call it imagination, or alternate reality, or parallel universes, I have the ability to see some of the alternate realities I might have had available to me, and that is what this post is about.
First, a disclaimer – there are certain realities of my life, as I’ve lived it, that I do not think it is fair to consider variable. I do not think that anything I might have done would have changed whether or not I got a bone tumor in my left leg, or the migraine headaches that resulted from taking the pain pills after the surgery that it caused. It also is not fair to assume that any of my personal decisions would have changed whether or not I got kidney stones. Those things likely would have happened no matter what I did.
So, with that said, let’s look at my personal “Sliding Doors” choices.
The first choice I can remember making which would fit this category would be my joining the US military. At that time, I had the option on the table of taking a scholarship to attend college. Based on the laws of the time, if I had made the choice to enter college right after high school, I would not have had the medical insurance to cover the surgery on my bone tumor. The best case scenario I can think of is that I would have lost my left leg entirely when the bone tumor manifested. If I’d been in a math or music major, it is still possible I could have completed my studies and progressed to graduate school, but I would have been in serious debt and not sure of affording the expenses attached to completion. Thus, I can’t find it in myself to regret the choice to join the Army.
The next major “Sliding Doors” moment I remember was after my discharge from the US Army, when I was on VA Vocational Rehabilitation, and studying Computer Science at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, KS. After completing one assignment in the computer lab (this was in 1983, and ironically the computer lab was in the room that is currently my wife’s office) I had some time to kill and decided to explore the computer database to see what I could access. Within minutes, I found myself face-to-face with the Computer Science Department’s Dean’s private files, and had access to ALL of the grades of every student in the program. Looking back, I suppose that it was an option that I could have gone to the Dean and told him about this, but at that time I just freaked out (it hadn’t been so long since Matthew Broderick’s movie “Wargames” released) and quit the program to avoid becoming an actual hacker. Going to the Dean might have saved my career, but I’m not sorry that I quit. I can’t imagine that I’d have done well in a career where my whole job was sitting in a cubicle typing code for computer programs that I didn’t care anything about. Choosing that major was probably a bad choice in the first place, but the Veteran’s Administration wasn’t willing to pay for me to go to college for anything where there wasn’t “documented need for trained workers” – or, to put it another way, they were only willing to feed corporate wage-slave demands.
After that, my next crossroads was spiritual. For a while, I entertained the possibility that my interest in all things spiritual was leading me to a vocation as a Christian Minister, and I enrolled at a Bible college in the minister’s program, still in the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation program. 2 things of note happened there. The first was that the faculty of the school didn’t like trying to answer questions that I kept asking, and I was asked to leave. The second, while I was a student I took a course in Radio Broadcasting, and became a minor celebrity throughout the region because of my frequent air-time on the Bible College’s radio station. When I told the director of the radio station that I would not be continuing as a student, he asked me to stay on as a DJ anyhow.
So, either of those could have turned out differently. I could have accepted that the questions were “above my paygrade” and stayed in the program by choosing to stop asking those questions. If I had, I’d likely be a church minister right now. And, yes, it does not escape me that because of the rule “If it isn’t written, it isn’t true” I’m likely still an Ordained Minister of the Church of Scientology, for no other reason than that they never sent me a copy of any orders canceling my credentials. But, I don’t use them. The other thing is, I could have stayed at the radio station, spinning discs and playing classical music, and made a fair, but low, income until I had the experience to move up and embark on a full-time career. However, the job I held there was SUPPOSED to be for current students (at least when I was hired) and since I chose to leave the student body at the school, my personal ethics wouldn’t let me keep the job.
Those decisions pretty much set the stage for how my life has gone. Of course, along the way I’ve also been a waiter in a restaurant, a dish washer in a restaurant, a lawn mower, a security guard, a taxi driver, and even been offered a chance to be an independent business owner (gifted a business that was already making $250k/year in 1982). But, in all of my exploration of those alternative paths my life may have taken, none of them led me to marriage with the wife I have now.
It’s just my humble opinion, but I think this is better.