Have you ever asked yourself, “What if?”
I have been doing it quite a bit lately. I wrote a little article about the books I read as a boy, and the dreams of adventure that were instilled by those books and it got me to thinking. And, as you might imagine, a lot of those thoughts begin with “What if?”
What if I had gone to college right out of High School, instead of going into the Navy? I was young, brash, and extremely undisciplined back then, but I wrote a lot more than I do now. From time to time, I actually entertained the thought of doing it professionally. Seems as if the further I progressed through my military tenure the less I wrote, and the harder it was to do so. I think the discipline and structure that was instilled in me was at odds with the creativity that was born there, and the logic and discipline won out in the end. If I had gone to college, and not gone into the Navy, would I have ended up as a novelist? A columnist in your Sunday Paper? I wonder about it.
What if I had stayed in the Navy, instead of getting out after one hitch? I fully planned on doing twenty-five years, and retiring. I had no intention of getting out. It was an odd series of events that led me to get out, and one that I did not see coming until it arrived. If I had stayed in, I would have retired 5 or 6 years ago with Max pension from the Navy. Wonder where I’d be now if I had stayed in?
What if I had not found that first job after I got out? I found my first job after the Navy by chance. Someone told me that a friend of a friend was looking for a helper, and that guy was Ex-Navy. My name got to him, and one thing led to another. Here I am, 25 years later, still in the same industry, working as an Engineer, and making a pretty good living. Where would I be if I had not gone to meet that guy, and never entered this business?
What if I had not taken that transfer back in ’89? Many of you know that I met my wife because the company I was working for transferred me to a newly acquired company, at which she worked. The company that had been acquired was in bankruptcy, and they wanted to try to bring it back to profitability, so they sent 3 or 4 of us over there to make some changes. We knew it was a one way trip, and that if the company still ended up going down, we would not be brought back as our jobs would have been back filled after we left. But we went anyway, although I thought long and hard before accepting it, and consulted with my Dad a lot about the risk that I was taking.
What if I had not kept asking my wife out? Again, some of you know that story, and it was a 5 month endeavor to get her to just go out with me.
What if I had just given up?
What if she had said “No” when I asked her to marry me?
What if my dad and I had never reconciled after those rough high school years?
What if……well, you get the picture.
I find myself looking back over the road map that my life has created, and looking at all of the cross roads that I have navigated, and realizing that just one different turn would have led me to a completely different destination. Depending on the turn, it might have been pretty close to where I am, or it might be so far from here that I would not recognize it. It is somewhat frightening sometimes, to look at it and realize that the place that I am is the result of hundreds or thousands of decisions, many of which were made on little to no thought and with little concern for the future.
I look at the extremely complex route that has led me to this waypoint, this very spot at this very time, and I think how fortunate I am, and I finally have the answer to one of my “What if”s”.
What if I knew that I would wind up right here, right now, with my wife, kids, grandkids, and the life I am leading? Would I still follow this winding and hazardous road map that brought me here? Would I bear the burdens and challenge the curves and dark corners of the path that I have followed.
And the answer is simple. “Oh, Yes. Every single step of it.”