life as i know it

"...everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." -Sylvia Plath

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

chosen paths

I often wonder what my life would be like now had I chosen a different path. There are so many times in life when the road forks, when I’ve found myself caught in that stress-inducing conundrum of deciding which journey was ultimately the one I was meant to travel. But the reality is that we can never undoubtedly know which path is the “right” one. We never know God’s exact “plan” for us in that moment. Fate’s voice is never quite loud enough for us to hear which direction we are predetermined to take. And the even greater reality is that maybe, quite possibly, there is no predetermined path or plan for us in that exact moment. Maybe the details of the journey are undetermined and unknown. Maybe it is only the end result of that journey that is known by some greater power.
If you think about relationships, many people believe that each person has one other person in this world with whom they were meant to spend their lives. Yet, even if this is true, does it necessarily mean that the exact time and place in which you meet that person has already been determined? Is the way you meet that person a predetermined milestone in your journey, or is the more integral piece of the journey found as an eighty-year-old man comforts his dying wife?
Regardless of whether or not the steps of our journeys are already known by some greater power than us, it still leaves me wondering where I would now be had I chosen a different path. Though it is impossible to ever know who or where I would now be, the stories I’ve concocted in my head are endless. And the reality is that I know, despite all the unknowns, that I am exactly who I’m meant to be.

**The following story is true, though the speculations are completely hypothetical of how my life might now be, had I chosen a different path.**

It was a Tuesday afternoon in March in the town where I was born and raised. I cannot recall whether the sun was shining, though it shouldn’t have been even if it was. My recollections present an overcast day, gray and slightly chilling despite the beginnings of a southern Spring. But it could have been that the grayness was only an internal condition of the day. Regardless, that day in mid-March produced a torrential downpour that would continue for months.
The morning was spent with my fiancé, deliberating on the details of our upcoming June wedding and meeting with the preacher who was set to perform the ceremony. The invitations had arrived, simplistic in their design, much like my soon-to-be husband. The dress was hanging in my mother’s house, the heavy satin and crystals bringing reality to any little girl’s fantasy. The guest list had been made and the reception plans were in progress. The church where I was baptized as an infant was reserved for an afternoon in late Spring that was to mark the beginning of my life with this man I adored. The bridesmaids had been fitted for their pale blue strapless gowns with adorning daisies. I walked into the pastor’s office that morning, a perfectly delicate diamond ring on my left hand and the love of my life by my side. Yet despite the fact that absolutely nothing was wrong, something was not right.
Sitting across from the preacher that morning, I listened to him speak of the commitment and the dedication involved in marriage. I heard him speak of temptations that would inevitably come to each of us. I heard him talk of the “ups and downs” that all marriages encounter. And I listened intently as he spoke of love. I knew I loved the man sitting next to me; I knew that more definitely than I knew just about anything in my life. But I also knew that something about what this pastor was telling us did not fit with the relationship that had evolved over the past two years.
The events following that meeting with the pastor have become a blur in my mind now. I vaguely remember a casual lunch at my parent’s house. But mostly I remember the confusion and the fear that was overwhelming me inside. I remember not knowing what to say to my fiancé or my parents or anyone. I remember wanting nothing more than to be able to run away from all the terrifying battles that were taking place in my head and my heart. I remember wishing that for once, I could ignore the doubts and just continue on with my “happily ever after”. But I’ve never been one that could ignore anything for long. I’ve never been one to suppress my feelings or do something that I felt was wrong. And on that day in March, I knew that if I didn’t stop the fairytale, it would be wrong.
In my beloved old black Rodeo in a mall parking lot was where my life changed forever. In the midst of the tears, I told him of my doubts and fears. I told him of my uncertainties, and also of those things of which I was certain. I told him that I knew I loved him, that I always had and I always would. But I also told him that I didn’t know if that love was enough. He was my family, he would always be my family. But was he meant to be my husband?
As I drove away that afternoon, my bags packed and my destination unknown, I left behind the only future I had ever imagined. That week I said good-bye. Good-bye to him and to our future together.
So every now and then, I find myself wondering where would I be now had I not said good-bye.
Suppose that day in March, I had not verbalized my fears and doubts. Suppose we had continued to finalize the plans for our honeymoon. Suppose that on that Saturday afternoon in June, my father had walked me down the aisle in my beautiful satin gown, kissed my cheek, and led me into the arms of the man I loved. Suppose the vows were said, the veil was raised, and he had kissed me tenderly and lovingly as he had done so many times before. Suppose we had been pronounced man and wife.
Instead of taking a job in my hometown, we would have moved together into an apartment in Atlanta, both working long hours with mediocre pay. His dreams of managing bands and becoming an integral person in the music industry would have faded behind the demands of a new family. My dependency on him would have continued to grow, causing increasingly frequent problems in the rituals of our daily lives. He would return home from work each evening, cook his famous dinner concoctions, and I would lie awake in bed each night long after he had fallen asleep. My insomnia would not be filled with all the thoughts of things I wish we could do or all the places I wish we could go, because my fears would be far too encompassing to imagine such life adventures. Nevertheless, we would continue day by day, loving each other and suppressing our wonders (conscious or unconscious) of what else the world might offer.
Neither of us would have ever learned the true value and beauty of independence. Neither of us would have worked so adamantly at fulfilling our passions and dreams in life. Neither of us would have pursued the self-exploration and internal growth that has led us to become the people we are today.
So because of that fateful day in March when my world and the direction of my life was forever altered, I have come only to a greater knowledge and appreciation of life and love. And the certainties that existed on that afternoon are certainties that I continue to hold today. This amazing man, who was once destined to be my partner in life, is still a part of my family and a part of my heart. And I still believe that when my heart tells me something isn’t right, I cannot ignore it and continue on in doubt. If I could, I would not be who I am.


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