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Roads Not Taken

Somebody smarter than me (but I forget who), said that life had to be lived forwards but could only be understood backwards. And it's a commonality of human nature that we often think about what we could have done here, or wish we'd done there, and how things might have come out differently. I mean, just look at the "note to myself of 10/20 years ago" posts floating around.

On the other hand, a lot of this kind of wishful thinking is just so much frippery. My opinion is that most people's fundamental natures don't really change that much over time, and that much of life is inevitable. For instance, I was quite the slacker in college -- for all my impressively hugemongous SAT scores I nearly flunked out because I'd never learned to study and I was always off working on my own stuff rather than the "job" of going to class. I'd like to think that had circumstances been different I would have done better -- but then I look at my current life and realize that I haven't really changed that much (as evidenced by the fact that I'm writing this post from my cubicle at work, instead of crunching away on web code).

I still engage in the "if only X had been different" fantasy, of course. In my mind I've built up a very interesting alternate-universe version of myself, who was inspired by his helpful and not-at-all-insane parents to become a black belt by age 12 and went to Cambridge as an exchange student before getting a job at the BBC and segueing from that into a dazzling film career. And it's possible that, were I able to step through the Wayback Machine to 1978 and relive my developing years with that goal in mind, I might even pull it off.

On the other hand, it's also possible, and fairly likely, that I would get distracted and sent off-course by an entirely different set of circumstances, and end up somewhere else entirely. I nearly flunked out of Virginia Commonwealth, fer cryin' out loud ... can you imagine the spectacularly bad grades I might get at Cambridge? But of course, one of the key aspects of the fantasy is that I would have already have the hard-won lessons of how to succeed in school that enabled me to pull my VCU degree out of its tailspin and escape with a Cum Laude -- not to mention the incredibly valuable knowledge that nothing the idiots around me in high school said or did had any bearing on real life -- and thus would get spectacular grades in high school, thus getting a scholarship and being prepared to succeed brilliantly.

On the other hand, if I did have that option, that would mean throwing away the things I have actually achieved with my life so far. No laurie_robey, no Suburban Jungle, and so on. Heck, to go all George Bailey on it, no being there in the parking lot in Richmond to help those kids in the runaway car. Would I be prepared to do that? There's no way to know. But I suppose that's the great thing about it being a fantasy -- if I put my mind to it, I can think of ways to get around all those things. I mean, if you're going to dream about something, might as well shoot the works, right? :)

-The Gneech


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 24th, 2008 04:28 pm (UTC)
Runaway car?

Oh, I know I would've changed some things; if nothing else, to stop kidding myself for so long.
Apr. 24th, 2008 05:18 pm (UTC)
Runaway car?

My "hero moment." :)

At a grocery store at the top of a hill in Richmond, c. 1989 or so, some woman had "parked" in the fire lane, left her kids in the car, and gone in to the store (presumably thinking "I'll just run in and be out in a minute" or something similarly fatuous). The kids, being kids, started playing with the mechanism of the car and managed to get it into neutral, so of course it started rolling down the hill. Laurie and I were coming up to the store at the time IIRC, and saw that the car was rolling out of control w/ said kids inside. I was the closest person to it, so in a frantic run I chased the car down, reached into the driver side window, and shoved it back into "park," which made it stop with a nasty grinding lurch, but not as nasty as the stop that rolling out into traffic would have caused. :-` There was another guy on the far side chasing it as well, I just happened to be the one closest to it.

The woman came out of the store, all thanks and apologies, and proceeded to get a tongue-lashing from some obnoxious other woman who had been standing there watching but hadn't done anything about it. :P But other than a nasty scare, the kids were okay. I think the little sister may have been more scared of me than the situation -- I doubt she realized what was going on -- but the older brother definitely knew what had happened. I'd like to hope that he didn't play around with the gearshift ever again. ;)

-The Gneech

Edited at 2008-04-24 07:07 pm (UTC)
Apr. 24th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
Woah, now that is a hero moment. It beats mine by a long shot and mine was more of a good samaritan moment. It's got to be sweet to know that in that womans' eyes, you are a hero. I hope I can have a "hero moment."
Apr. 24th, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC)
Man, you were still just a kid yourself then. Good job.
Apr. 25th, 2008 01:02 am (UTC)
Well, 19, anyway. :) Thanks!

Apr. 24th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
Ah, yes. The Starship Captain's lament. Forever and a day are not enough to see all of infinity.
Apr. 25th, 2008 08:28 am (UTC)
"...for all my impressively hugemongous SAT scores I nearly flunked out because I'd never learned to study and I was always off working on my own stuff rather than the "job" of going to class."

Hmm, that sounds terribly familiar. 1500 SATs don't do you much good when you hit something you don't understand on the first explanation, or when you miss the explanation entirely, eh?
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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