fork in the road

Things have been really busy lately. And when I say "lately" I mean for, oh, the past 3 years or so. There's a lot of work to catch up on when you were only back from vacation for 7 working days before missing another 7 because of a natural disaster.

I missed the presidential programming last night because I was flying back home and just wanted to get to bed as quickly as possible. As I was rushing out of the airport, however, I heard Obama say this:

I know that I wouldn't be standing here if it weren't for the fact that this country gave me opportunity. I came from very modest means. I had a single mom and my grandparents raised me and it was because of the help of scholarships and my grandmother scrimping on things that she might have wanted to purchase and my mom, at one point, getting food stamps in order for us to put food on the table.

Despite all that, I was able to go to the best schools on earth and I was able to succeed in a way that I could not have succeeded anywhere else in this country.
That got me thinking, and I'm not going political here. I think if you pay attention, there are times when things happen to you or around you or you make the decision yourself, and that changes the whole course of your life. What if Obama's grandparents wouldn't have been there to help him and his mother? Here are some turning points that came to mind for my life.
  • My father's death. I'm pretty sure this would impact anyone's life. But I was only seven. And I was suddenly an old soul. Who knows...maybe I was before then; I can't remember. And Mom never really had any romantic relationship after that. So this change led me to not having in-house role models in that regard. And instead of having a household with a stay-at-home mom and working dad, I had a single mom with a low income.
  • My grandpa paying off our mortgage. This is the first thing I thought of when I heard Obama last night. I have no idea what we would have done with a mortgage. We barely scraped by for a long time. I think that could have put us over the edge. Life could have been worse. Way worse. Thank goodness we didn't have to move after Dad died. That stability surely helped us.
  • My mother's death. When you're 19 and suddenly have no living parent, some things change. I totally lost religion, for example. And even though (unlike many people) I couldn't fall back on Mom in a financial sense when she was alive, I could totally fall back on her emotionally. Then I think about how things would be now if she were here. She would be proud of me but at the same time hate my job. She'd be so worried every time I got on a plane. And that I'm in strange, new places. Alone! By myself! She would have probably chain smoked herself to death.
  • Choosing not to date that guy in college. (Granted, this one is not as heavy as the previous ones.) I could feel that I was at the fork in the road. It was the darker path. I'm glad I didn't choose it.
  • Choosing to date that other guy in college. Oh, to gather baggage. To feel like damaged goods. To lose a bit of yourself. To have him say really stupid crap to make going it alone so much easier.
  • Not getting accepted into a PhD program. Ending up in my back-up Masters program has pretty much shaped my entire adult life. The friends I made. The place I live. The Brother told me the other day that the last apartment I lived in made him want to move here. But what if I hadn't moved here? He wouldn't have moved here. He wouldn't have met my SIL. I wouldn't have met The Boyfriend. It goes on and on...
  • Not getting my first choice in internships. You know how there are times in life when you just wish you knew the reason something didn't work out? Where you wish someone would let you in on the plan, let you see the big picture? And how there are other times when you can look back and see exactly why things worked out a certain way? Or maybe that's just me. I've been able to look back and see that that internship wouldn't have been the best one for me. The one I got prepared me for my first and second post-college jobs. My first job led me to the apartment I mentioned before. That commute led me right by the office of my second job (which I wouldn't have noticed otherwise) and that got me into this career.
  • Going to HMNS on August 10, 2007. Thank goodness I met The Boyfriend. I noticed today how I don't look at strangers the same way. I'm no longer on the prowl. It's a nice habit to fall out of... Having someone to take for granted (even though you should never take anyone for granted)? Priceless.

How about you? Can you think of any forks in your road?


Bubba's Sis said…
Too many to list! But know this, dear friend - God DOES have a plan for your life, and the reason things don't work out and other things do is because of Him guiding your way. Yes, you have free will to make your own choices, but He loves you and is guiding you every day. There is no such thing as a coincidence.
Patois said…
Oh, your introspection is amazing. Your sense of which road you chose each time, and what that meant each time, is fascinating. I have made it a point in life to never regret what I didn't do. Some college professor gave me that advice. That doesn't mean I'm not with you in looking at how what I did and what I didn't do brought me to where I am today.

It's late. I'm rambling. But your post was truly an experience for me to read.
Katie Lady said…
Wow, this is so cool. You are making me reflect in a way I haven't done for a long time. Great post!

BS is right, although I have my own way of thinking about it. Your life is like a braid, constantly being added to, but the end result is a nice, long path. At one point, you can choose to go down one of several strands. But, eventually, God will bring you back to the path He had out for you all along. He is just constantly weaving our lives in and out and in and out based on the decisions we make in our own lives. It's beautiful, isn't it? I don't think the first few of those on your list really applies in this case, because we don't CHOOSE to lose loved ones. But everything else does.

It is truly amazing to look back at your life and think of the 'what would have happened IFs' and smile. :)
Anonymous said…
i, too, have often thought about the forks in my road. the one i always come back to, though, is how my life would have turned out if my parents didn't bring me to this country. would they have divorced when we got here? how different would i be as a person if i didn't have to grow up so fast so that i could help my parents take care of everyday things in a foreign country? what kind of school would I have gone to? what profession would I have chosen? i wouldn't have met any of the people that i now hold so dear- who would my husband be? would I already have children? what would i be like as a grownup in my home country?

good post, cjh!

StaceyG said…
Oh man I have tons of forks. And thankfully I can see why all the decisions I made were the right ones for me. I sometimes wonder, "what if...?" but not that often.
Bubba's Mom said…
Since I'm way older that Sis, I really have too many to list! But, sweet child, all the things that happened to you happened for a reason, and God's hand was right at your back, guiding you along. You haven't really lost religion, because it's been there all the time. When you look back and see the choices you've made, that is God letting you know that you matter and that He's there for you. He would love it if you were to come back. Let Him love on you.

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