There are multiple occasions in our lives when we meet the proverbial fork in the road. I've been wondering "what if" I followed different paths than the ones chosen. Would those paths have led me to tonight, alone in Tallahassee, Fla., clicking away on a keyboard and flipping between the "Golden Globes" (BTW: Miss Drew Barrymore - what were you THINKING wearing your green dress bra-less?) and "The Bachelor" (train wreck television; I know).
Most of my adult life was spent in the national parks (park management company). One summer, I chose the parks over returning home to work on my Master's in education. It wasn't an easy decision. At the time, I thought I was giving up on a definite future for an unknown journey.
People who work in the parks system are generally escaping something: either literally, such as from the law or ex-spouses or figuratively, escaping a bit of reality or general fears. Yet, the system provides comfortable, family-type surroundings. Practically everything is provided: the parents are the managers; siblings are the co-workers. Meals and beds are provided for. Utility bills? Non-existent. And working in nature's playgrounds is like being at a family reunion every day.
This got me thinking about other paths I could have chosen. While in high school, a friend's mother always insisted the way to go in life was to become a nun. She told us that nuns have it made: higher education paid for, place to live, job security, uniform, meals and retirement. The celibacy thing wasn't all that appealing, but looking back, maybe being committed to Christ wouldn't be such a bad thing. Sure, maybe He wouldn't send cards for birthdays and holidays, but, one would have a guaranteed seat in eternity. And best of all, Valentine's Day wouldn't be so bad, since a single woman wouldn't have to be alone that day.
Then there is the military, another structured environment. In addition to the same benefits of the convent: education, place to live, uniform, meals and retirement, there is opportunity for world travel. Sure, this may involve serving in an unruly part of the world wearing a flak jacket and helmet while avoiding bullets and missiles, but think of the stories to tell the grandchildren. And I imagine the male to female ratio is in the ladies' odds.
But in the end, although I ponder about "what ifs," I'm glad for taking the journeys I have. Not all of it has necessarily been good but I'm grateful for the network of friends I have gathered through the various wanderings. I can't imagine my life without them.