Today, the happy souls over at the daily prompt idea machine asked us to consider the road less traveled, to Pinpoint a moment in your past where you had to make a big decision. Write about that other alternate life that could have unfolded.
I grew up in Idaho. I wasn’t born there but came to know the place, and apparently myself, from third grade on. Before, my family moved around a lot living in southern California – where I was born – then moving cross country to Ohio settling in a little town formerly known as Buzzards Gulch. We ended up in North Carolina within a year, barely attuning myself to another small town, making friends and settling in with my second grade classmates when we were set to move once more. At least I got to see the Atlantic, Cape Hatteras and where the Wright brothers first flew. It was Dad’s work setting us up for another relocation, the third in as many years but this time a bit further than before, Saudi Arabia. I was nervous hearing about the severe punishments for law breakers – not that I was one at the tender age of eight – but stories of hands chopped off for stealing bread were enough to drive a chill of fear into any impressionable mind, true or not. At the eleventh hour plans changed. We were heading to Idaho instead, leaving those stories, and perhaps others, to float among the what-if’s of life. Sitting back in this chair today it is enticing to ponder what fruits that life would have bore. It tends to conjure amusing clichés worthy more of fantasy than real life. Yet, there is another move I did not take, this one decided by choice rather than apparent fate or will of another. Where would I be now had I left Idaho on a whim that one particular day and taken my Dad’s invitation for work in Arizona?
I still remember the day. It was the scrounging days, working jobs found through the temp agency. It was a decent one which held potential for a regular job. Hewlett-Packard, a great place to work in the growing tech town of Boise. It wasn’t skilled work by any means. I tested vibrations within hard drives before they were installed into computers. It was simple, just touch a probe to the case and flag it if the needle went into the red. That was it, along with a few other menial duties. But that wasn’t the point. I had my foot in the door. That was the day, the day I embarrassed myself, said something stupid offending my female coworkers.
All I wanted to do was hide out and not face them. Honestly, I thought it was no big deal, just a little comment made as a joke. I thought about it, about just leaving. It was lunch time and everyone was gone. I stayed, and the temptation came. A week before, my dad had gotten word. He’d been hired for a construction project down in Phoenix. “I can get you on if you want to move,” he’d said before he left. I could just write a note, leave it on my boss’s desk and go. It was a spur of the moment decision, “now or never, “ I could say. “I just had to take advantage of it.”
I began writing the note. All I had to do was write it up, slip into my boss’s cubicle and leave it on her desk. She was gone for an hour. There would be no face to face explanation needed, just the note. All done.
I waited too long. I sat there thinking, picking apart the pros and cons. This thing here and now, the embarrassment was no big deal. It’d blow over, I’d apologize and grovel. They’d forgive me for my poor sense of humor, eventually. And what was in Arizona anyways? All my friends are here. If I left who’d I have to hit the bars with. My mom’s here. I’ve got my own place and a roommate I actually get along with, a long time friend.
“No, I’ll work through it,” I decided and tossed the note away. I stayed and things got better. All was good until the following year when I was passed over for a regular hire and the temporary position was cut. Was it because of that stupid comment? Did it shadow me? I don’t know but I can’t help but wonder.
But sometimes in the back of my mind I’m still curious, what would have happened if I’d just taken off. Where’d I be now if I’d have just packed up a Uhaul, put the Chevelle on a trailer and headed south. It would have been a good road trip. Of course, now, that’s just midlife second guessing isn’t it? Life’s been good. I can’t complain too much, no more than anyone else can I suppose.
Linda and I are good for each other. We had our times, I can tell you that, but what couple hasn’t. The earlier years were tough, for sure. Melanie was a surprise, especially when Linda first told me she was pregnant only a month into seeing each other. I was worried but a little excited as well. I told her how I felt, we were probably too young. We both had a lot more living to do before raising a kid. I left it to her, though and she kept it, Melanie that is. We opted to stay here, raise her in a familiar place. She’s just turned eighteen, about to graduate high school and wants to go to college. I’m pushing her there knowing how difficult it is not to finish.
In the end we managed. A high school friend, after hearing about the pregnancy and knowing I hadn’t anything stable at the time, offered me a job. It was with his father’s company that he started managing after working his way up through the ranks himself. I started at the bottom, entry level. I was happy just to have a steady paycheck and health insurance. The job wasn’t bad. We built and assembled backpack vacuums, the kind used by janitorial companies. At least that’s what I did at first. I worked my way up too and I’m in middle management, overseeing the line now. We have a house, bought it eight years ago well before the bubble burst and crazy mortgage problems. My parents and my grandparents were able to see their grand-, and great, grandkid grow up and she was able to know them. We got to visit my Dad fairly often. He and my brother – along with his wife and her kid from another marriage – are living just outside of Seattle now. I’ve even taken up some writing, just to see where it’ll lead. And I still see all the same guys, the same good friends. They never seem to change. We don’t go out drinking like we used to, a couple of beers on the weekends and bowling on Wednesdays and after softball games during the season.
Well here I am two and half pages into this daily prompt post and haven’t even followed the directions. That’s what losing yourself in life’s ramblings will do, I suppose. So, what would have happened if I would have finished the note and quit that one day back at the tail end of 1993?
My dad would have gotten me a decent job like he did for my brother after he graduated high school. It’s possible I would have given school another try. I always had that ambition but the drive just never materialized. Maybe things would have been different there. I can see myself finishing out my bachelor’s, maybe in archeology, no…anthropology. After graduating maybe I would have backpacked through Europe for a couple of months then come back and worked here and there. I probably would have eventually met someone and we would have set off along the Alaska Highway to Anchorage for grad school for something that’d compliment my first degree. Maybe environmental science. I suppose there’s a chance we would have ended up in a place like Northern California where she could finish out her degree and I’d find some work and I have extended family there. I could see that happening.
Funny how life works out isn’t it? One decision could send you out to who knows where making you a completely different person than you are now. It’d be all too easy to sit and think about the possibilities for days but honestly life is what it is and it’s healthier to keep one foot planted in the present. After all, there are people who need you here.
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Other Roads Less Traveled: