What Might Have Been

I’ve been thinking about life a lot lately (I do that when I’m stressed). In particular, I’ve been thinking about how certain decisions set my life on one course or another and how things would be different if I had chosen different option. Now, I don’t mean this in the bad way. This isn’t one of those things where I’m curled up in a ball on the couch crying over “what ifs” while drinking wine straight from the bottle. Every scenario is going to have good and bad parts . . . but I’m fascinated by just how different things could be.
How about some education-themed examples:

Life decision #1 – high school. My hometown has one of those math and science schools for smart kids and they gave a presentation at my school in maybe 8th or 9th grade. . . I’m not sure. I was fascinated and thought it sounded amazing. I met up with my friends afterwards all energized about this new possibility only to discover that everyone thought it sounded awful. I still considered the school for a bit, but I was really influenced by my friend’s opinions – what if they were seeing something that I didn’t? I certainly didn’t want to end up making myself miserable.

Had I gone to the school, I might have lost a bit of my introvert-ism and developed some more independence while living away from my parents at an early age. On the other hand, I would have missed out on some unforgettable experiences with an amazing group of girls. I couldn’t have picked better friends. Most of these women are still in my life in one way or another (yes, I’m counting Facebook) and I can’t imagine my teen years any other way. It really means a lot of me.

Life decision #2 – college. With good grades and a high ACT score, I had a lot of options when I graduated high school, but was scared to spread my wings. Not so much because I would be away from my parents, but because I would be alone. I had full-ride to one of my top-choice schools, Agnes Scott College in Georgia. Unfortunately, my parents were unable to take me to visit the school. They offered to fly me out there, but at that point I had never even been on an airplane and was terrified to go on my own. More so than the airplane, I was worried about not being able to find the person who would be there to pick me up. I later realized that this a big anxiety trigger for me, but at the time I couldn’t work past it. I ended up going to another one of my top-choice schools, but was extremely disappointed and left after one year.

I don’t know exactly what going to Agnes Scott would have meant for me, but I do think I missed a good opportunity because of my anxiety. I’d love to have experienced that women’s college environment. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have my husband or my daughter. So whoa, that’s a huge one. On a slightly smaller scale, I entered college as a German major heading for a career in international law. Picking the wrong school forced me to reevaluate everything (a year at a community college is great for that) and I eventually discovered my love for history.

Life decision #3 – graduate school. Having blown it on the undergrad school choice, I sent out a ton of graduate school applications – mostly for public history degrees, but some museum studies programs. It all came down to finances on this one; as a relatively un-established new family with a small child, I just couldn’t justify moving my family halfway across the country to live away from our support system on the pitiful salary of a graduate assistant. Especially not when there was a perfectly reasonable option just a commutable hour away. Moving away could have really opened up my career options (Little Rock, Arkansas isn’t exactly drowning in history and archival positions). But I firmly believe my marriage would have suffered if we left our comfortable life. We were not in a strong place to handle that kind of stress. I originally hoped to enter museum education, but staying local landed me a job in the archives. And this is my calling, for sure. Perhaps most importantly, the little man wouldn’t be a part of our family. Unthinkable.

I just get a kick out of thinking about this stuff. Life is weird.


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