Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Road Not Taken

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;"

-From The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost-

Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? It's the idea that a small initial action can have a profound effect on future events (i.e. flapping of butterfly's wings causing a tornado to form [or not form, as the case may be]). There was a movie made by the same name starring Ashton Kutcher, in which the main character is able to go back and change things in the past which tend to have a profound effect on his future (usually for the worse). There's also a good movie called Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow which examines the great difference one seemingly mundane event in her life has on the course of her life (i.e. missing the subway).

Invariably, at some point in your life, someone will ask you, "If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?" I never quite know how to respond to this. I have a pretty good life at present, so it's hard for me to look back on anything as a "regret" and as something I'd want to change.

Sure....if I was sitting in a cell in Kingston Penitentiary, doing a life sentence for a murder rap, I might be saying to myself, "Yeah...I sure regret killing that guy. I sure wish I could go back and maybe....I dunno.....NOT kill him." That might qualify as a regret. But even still, if it were The Butterfly Effect, maybe if I hadn't killed that guy, he would have gone on to acquire a WMD and detonate it, wiping out half the eastern seaboard. Chew on that!

So would I change anything? Probably not. If our foresight was as keen as our hindsight, it might be a different story. Then again, if that were the case, the best decision could be made in the first instance, couldn't it?

Nonetheless, when people ask a question like that, it tends to lead to some retrospection. Undoubtedly, there are moments in one's life that are watersheds.....times where you come to a fork in the road, like in Frost's famous poem. These moments jump out at you. They lead to "what would my life be like today if....." type questions. Looking back, I can see at least 4 or 5 such events (of those which were of my own control) that have shaped who and where I am today. After a bit of personal deliberation, I've decided to share them.

1. The Girl Unanswered.

In the summer between Grade 5 and Grade 6, we moved. I was a popular guy in my old neighbourhood, and at my old school. I was in the "IN" crowd, insofar as you can have an "IN" crowd in Grade 5. When I started Grade 6 at my new school, it was foreign territory. There weren't many kids my age in my neighbourhood, so I went in not really knowing anyone. Luckily for me, I was darn cute and completely adorable, so people took to me like moths to a flame. Especially the girls. I guess it's that age when guys and girls are starting to notice each other and all that. I was LITERALLY being chased around the schoolyard by packs of 10-11 year old girls. In retrospect, I look back and ask myself, "Why was I running?". The reality was, I was terrified. I didn't quite know how to deal with the whole situation. I think being in a new area, new school, etc, I retreated into myself a bit, and it's when my shyness (which I've never been able to shake) really took hold.

Soon after my arrival in that Fall of 1986, I learned that K had a bit of a crush on me. K was one of the "IN" girls at the new school. Her "crowd" tried tirelessly to impress upon me her interest, and made numerous attempts to bring us together, through courtyard socialization, trying to get us to "hold hands" at the skating rink, etc. I resisted. It's not that I didn't like K. She was attractive...popular, etc. Rather, I was in the grip of fear and didn't quite know how to deal with the situation. So I ran away from it.

Eventually, they gave up on me and I found myself socializing more with The Others. The not quite as cool kids (i.e. the nerds, the geeks, the burnouts....yes...strangely enough, there were burnouts in Grade 6). There seemed to be less pressure in that peer group. There was also less co-ed mingling. It's not that I didn't like the girls....I just hadn't quite figured them out yet. We fear what we don't understand.

Looking back, I at times wonder how I, and subsequently, my life might have been different had I given in to the pressure to "date" (exaggerated quotation gesture) K. By way of this schoolyard romance, would I have developed more confidence and been more outspoken? How would a different peer group have affected my future choices as far as sports, work, occupation? Would I be the same person? Hmmmm......

2. The Clown Corporation

In 1991, amidst increasing presure from my mother, I sought a job. I found McDonald's. Two of my best friends at the time already worked there, so it seemed as good a place as any to apply. I was hired in June. In December, my wife was hired. A year later, we were dating. The rest, as they say, is history.

Aside from the obvious personal impact on my life, I also spent 8 of my formative years as an employee of McDonald's, 4 of those in management. It taught me a lot of life skills and work ethic which I believe I carry with me to this day. Through that job, I also made a number of friendships, as well as solidifying some of my strongest ones which continue to this day.

And I got fat.

3. The Stay At Home Voyageur

As my high school days drew to a close in 1993-1994, I was faced with a big decision. On the one hand, Carleton University in Ottawa. On the other, Laurentian University at home in Sudbury. I'm not sure whether fear or finances played the bigger factor, but I eventually decided to stay in Sudbury. As such, I continued on at McDonald's (eventually joining the management team), probably saved a lot of money, lived at home until I was 24, and likely protected the relationship with the girl who was to become my wife. I sacrificed independance for stability. It's interesting to wonder how things might have unfolded had I gone to Ottawa on my own as an 18 year old.

4. The Westward Marcher

In February of 2000 I flew out to Regina, Saskatchewan to attend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Training Academy. It was 5 months of gruelling training after which I earned my badge. If I had not applied and been accepted, or had I failed at the Academy, I wonder where I would be. Still at McDonald's? It's almost mind-boggling to consider, as since 2000, my life course has been shaped by the RCMP.

I was initially posted to Carlyle, a little community in the southeast of Saskatchewan, policing 11 communities and 2 First Nations Reserves. After 3 years there (our family having grown by one feline and one canine), we shipped north to Pelican Narrows, a First Nations community in northern Saskatchewan for 2 years. In our time, we made many good friends, and I was exposed to so many life and work experiences that I never would have imagined for myself. Now back in Ontario, I work in the VIP section which has put me in the presence of Prime Minister's, Presidents, and Royals. Wild.

I'm certain there are other life events and decisions which have influenced my life, but I view those as the big ones to date. I am certain that there will be many more to come(the first probably as soon as October). Who knows what the future will bring?

In answer to the question, "If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?".


But sometimes, it's fun to wonder.


Blogger Tam's thoughts said...

Dave nice blog. I'm happy you don't want to change anything. Especially since you can blog at work.
love ya

11:29 AM  
Blogger Burnie said...

Dave, It comes without saying that you have made a lot of great decisions in your life, and maybe some not so good. But overall they seem very good!
I'm sure with the upcoming events you will have many more decisions. You will wonder if you have indeed made the right decision.
All I can say to this is "be are a great person"
Follow your heart!
Love ya...Dad

5:17 PM  
Blogger Melinda said...

You know, the sign of a great blog post is when your readers are nodding as they read and talking aloud about how they should write about something like that!

I totally agree about the Butterfly Effect thing - got a few moments in my life that were very small but have defined the my life's direction. I'd write about them in my blog, but then people would think I'm copy-catting (lol)

great post :)

ps. hope your puppy is feeling better

6:50 PM  
Anonymous JM said...

Nice one. ;-)

7:30 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Glad folks enjoyed it. Of course, I'm my own worst critic, so reading it back now, I have to groan over some of what I've written.

Ah well.

8:28 AM  

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