If you believe that our future is preordained, think again for each step we take has the possibility of dramatically changing our lives. It just occurred to me a few weeks ago that something that happened to me 17 years ago altered the path of my life so significantly that if things had gone differently, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today or even writing these words. It boggles the mind…
My favorite comic strip growing up was “Bloom County” followed by its spin-off “Outland” starring the loveable penguin (puffin) Opus, Bill the Cat, Steve Dallas, Milo and a host of others. One strip that I still remember fairly well involved the character of Milo, a 10-year old boy wise beyond his years. The end frame of the strip, if I recall correctly, is Milo, paralyzed in stupefaction, as he has just considered the myriad of twists in turns of the roads of his predecessors that led to his being born and the fact that any one different step by someone generations before him could have so significantly shifted the winds of fate that he might never have even been born. When you think about it like that, it can be staggering. Each step we take impacts the rest of our life and the lives of those around us.
One of the most popular books of 2013 was “Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson and it was a fictional view of the steps that one character took and the numerous different ways that her life changed as a result. The story was a series of births and deaths for the main character and after each birth, she went through life taking different courses and her life spun off into drastically different ends as a result. In some instances it was the difference between being 5 minutes early for the train or 5 minutes late; in others it was the difference between being swept up by a wave and avoiding it completely.
Despite the fact that I felt the book missed out on some golden opportunities to truly explore how isolated incidents can impact the course of one’s life, it did provoke me to think about my life and whether I, too, experienced any cross-roads which would have dramatically altered the course of my life had I taken a different path. And the answer was, to my complete surprise, a resounding yes. Who knew that something that happened to me at 21 would have such a dramatic impact on my life?
But the fact of the matter is that had events progressed differently than they did, it is nearly a certainty that I never would have dated Amy, never would have married her and, even more upsettingly, my two beautiful girls would never have been born. It is inconceivable to me, now, that this world could have existed without my two little ones in it; how the world would have suffered a great injustice by their never being born! And they are thoughts like that that make me pause and consider the weight of the events that brought me to today.
If you have seen the Disney movie “Meet The Robinsons” there is a scene at the end of the film in which the future of the characters changes so much that the background scenery changes gradually from a light to dark, from a paradise to a perdition. As I thought about that one isolated event of mine of 1997 and how incredibly different my life would be now if that event had never taken place, it felt like that; like I was looking at the walls of my house as they faded away, like I was looking at my wife as she faded away and her history was rewritten; and like I was looking at my daughters as they disappeared completely.
It can be a bit debilitating – trying to imagine this world without Brooklyn and Kensi, or my life without them, or my life without Amy?!?
Being a glutton for punishment, I did try to imagine it. I tried to imagine how my life would be different now if things had gone differently in ’94. I am not going to say that the 17 years since then haven’t been difficult, they certainly have, but they would have been more difficult had things gone differently. My relationship with my parents, the vacations, the holidays, my semester in London, my friends. So much of my life would be different now…
At the time, I was devastated by what happened. I was heartbroken, I was depressed and I thought that things would never get better. But things had a way of working out for the best, something that you never could have convinced me of at the time.
You hear it said all the time that things happen for a reason and most of the time I think of it as just a throwaway remark to make someone feel better when a bad thing happens. But man is it true! I truly think that there is a higher power up there who put all of the pieces in place and led me to where I am today and who I am with. How can I not believe that when I look into Brooklyn’s and Kensi’s eyes and see the special people they are? It was destined for them to be born, it was destined for them to be mine. And man, is it scary to think how everything in my life would have been different if not for that one solitary occurrence in 1997.