What was one of the roads in life you chose not to travel?

After twenty-five years her eyes still sparkled as they fixed on mine from across the table. She asked, “Why did none of us date?”

The people from the after-reunion, and her new husband, vanished for a moment and I met her look with confidence I did not have when we were in high school. I said, with a note of regret, “It was hard to cut one of you out of the herd.”*

“Yes, we stuck together pretty tight,” she said wistfully, and the moment ended.

The previous moment, a quarter century before, did not last much longer. We had both visited a mutual friend, quite coincidentally, and she gave me a ride home. She was not one of the popular girls, nor was she considered a class beauty. At a time when long, straight hair was the thing she wore hers in close, blonde curls, like a flapper. Her clothing was not stylish and it disguised her figure, which had become, frankly, stupifying. She had a bubbly, flighty personality that made it easy to dismiss her, so her seconds of biting snark were surprising and effective and it took me years to figure out how smart she really was. During high school she had grown from a geeky girl into an unexpectedly beautiful woman. She was not flashy, so it took a while to notice her, and longer still to realize how stunning she was. I was smitten, but lacked the confidence to do anything about it and afraid she would laugh at me for my presumption.

She and her friends were part of my Teen-Aged Republican crowd** and because they were always together it was hard to get to know any one of them, and harder still to know her, but now I wanted to know her. Everything about her. I realized she might be The One, so when we stopped I turned to her and asked to kiss her. The kiss was long and deep and seemed mutually desired, and I left her car in a daze.

A few minutes after I went inside the phone rang. It was our mutual friend and she was giggling as she slyly said, “I know what you did!”

I was mortified. As soon as she got home she had called her friend and told her all about it, and now the friend seemed to be mocking me, just as I was afraid would happen. I did not—could not—pursue that relationship, and we didn’t speak again until the reunion.

Did I overreact? Yeah, obviously. Was I an idiot? I have always been an idiot; why would I stop then? Was that intended as a congratulatory call, that the two of us had finally gotten together? It is a very real possibility. Did she put off marrying until she was in her forties because she could not find a man who could compare with me, and settled for a guy who was merely rich, handsome, and ten years younger than her? I like to think so. Would my life be very different if I had followed that fork in the road? Undoubtedly. That’s what forks do, and the woman I married a few years later helped set my life on a path very different from what I expected in 1974.

Your turn. Where did you not follow a fork in the road, and what do you think the consequences were? Please contribute because, if you don’t, remember that I’m the Grandpa Simpson of the SDMB. I have more of these endless, pointless stories and I’m not afraid to tell them.

    • The cowboy metaphor I really used. Ain’t I romantic?
      ** - Shut up. The story of every man’s odd decisions always begins with, “Well, there was this girl…” Or boy, as the case may be. She wasn’t that girl, but I was a boy of easy infatuation.

Yeah, I have one rather just like that who has recently made a reappearance in my life. Ahh, the allure of the road not taken.

Interesting. I tried to think of something and realised i have n regrets over roads i decided not to travel. There were opportunities that I reached for but was never able to grasp that would constitute a different road I may have gone down, but that wasn’t by choice.

Likewise, I’ve considered the consequences of some decisions I did make (like the woman I married) and how things may have worked out if I’d done things differently and made different choices. But, the person i am now is the product of having made those decisions and living through the consequences. It hasn’t always been fun or easy, but I like who I am now, so I wouldn’t change that either.

One choice I sometimes consider is what would have happened if I had decided to go to Uni instead of getting a job.When I finished high school I applied and was accepted into some unis in Melbourne to do applied physics and applied chemistry. I deferred, got a job in what was then the public service and never looked back.

Now I work in Human Resources with an IT flavour. I wonder what would have happened? Pretty sure things would have been different. Not necessarily better, but different.

I wouldn’t say I would regret it, but I was really gunho about joining the Navy as a Nuke and doing the submarine thing for a while (perhaps indefinitely depending on how much I like it). But I withdrew my application because I got involved romantically and started having reservations.

In my mid-20’s, I was a regular at a nightclub. As a result, I knew the staff pretty well and was even on friendly terms with some of them.

One night, there was a new barmaid. Let’s call her Diane. All the girls working there were pretty but she stood out. Mid-length, wavy, brown hair, very little make-up and amazing, big blue eyes full of life. A real, natural beauty. Of course, all the guys were hitting on her constantly. Except me. I didn’t want to bother her and make a fool of myself at the same time.

Since I knew some the staff, I was allowed to stay after the place closed and go with them at some bar for an after-party. As a consequence, it wasn’t long before we started talking. I got the feeling that she thought I was OK but that was it.

A few weeks later I got a call late in the evening. It was Diane. She’d got my number from one of her colleagues and wanted to know whether I was free that night because she was alone and wanted some company. As luck would have it, I wasn’t so I declined but made sure to offer another possibility which she accepted.

We met the next day and did the usual stuff: had dinner in a chinese restaurant which she had chosen then went for a couple of drinks at her favourite bar. She told me immediately that she had just broken up with her boyfriend and that she wasn’t ready to date anyone else for the moment. Still, during our discussion, she made some very relevant observations about me including the way I walked, so she was clearly trying to see what sort of guy I was. The evening ended, I took her to the bus stop and, once she left, I started wondering what this was going to lead to. Intriguing but inconclusive if I may say so. She was definitely sending contradictory signals. I decided to take it easy.

She called me again a few days later. Now, she was inviting me to her place the next day. She would cook. Oh, and her best friend was going to be there if it was OK. Well, things were going in the right direction, or so I thought but I was still determined to be careful and take it slow.

The next day, I picked her friend up at the station as asked and we arrvied at her place, a cute little house on the edge of town. We had dinner watched a movie then talked for hours. It was so late that she told me to sleep at her place. Her friend was staying anyway so it was “safe”.

I woke up early the next morning because I had to go to work and left a note on the kitchen table saying that I’d had a great time, thanking her for everything and saying I was looking forward to seeing her again.

When I got home after work that night, there was a message on my answering machine. It was her again but this time, she was saying that her friend thought that I was a bit creepy and that it was better not to see each other again. I was totally dumbfounded. I had done absolutely nothing weird the night before. I mean, we ate, watched a movie and talked. That was it. It just didn’t make sense. I was crushed because I thought everything was coming together so well. Anyway, I could only do one thing: forget about it, no matter how hard it was going to be.

Now, the following week, I reconnected with and old friend (“Cindy”) I had lost touch with for very stupid reasons. It’s a long story, so let’s just say that we’d had a silly argument relating to the dreaded “friendzone” and that she stopped seeing me. Since then, she’d gone back to her country so I expected I would never see her again. But one night, all of a sudden, there she was in front of me. She was back on a short business trip and took the opportunity to try to reconnect with me. Man, that was so unexpected. To this day, this is one of the happiest memories of my life. When she left, I was almost high. That’s how overwhelmingly happy I felt. This time, I was determined on not fucking up again. We were going to be just friends and I was fine with it.

The next morning Diane called me :confused:. She said that she wanted to see me again. I remarked that her last message was saying exactly the opposite. “Have you met someone?”, she asked. I answered that it was none of her business since she’d said that she didn’t want to see me anymore. “Please tell me.” So I told her about Cindy.

When I finished she said: “So you two are just friends, right?”. “Yes, we’re just friends”. “But you know”, I added coldly “She means much more to me than you ever will. I’m not interested in people who change their minds all the time. Don’t bother calling me anymore.”

As you may have guessed, I did this purely out of spite.

I’m not going to say that I really regret not taking that road. But I often wonder where it would have lead me…

I studied biology in college and it was my intention to go to medical school. I had spent two years (during college) working at the NIH. I was a Div. I athlete (soccer). And I scored reasonably well on the MCAT. But my GPA was only a 3.25.

When I applied to medical school, I only got in to two. Neither in the continental U.S. One offer was for a medical school, associated with Columbia University, in Israel. Part of the program was a six week crash course in Hebrew. Yikes!

I freaked, enrolled in a PhD program at UMd, then bailed before it started and went to law school. I made three times as much money as a law clerk doing patent work, then the post-docs at the NIH. But patent law was ungodly boring. Now I’m a public defender. Go figure.

But I do think about medical school all the time. Alas…

I could have been somebody. I could have been a contender.

I had a job as assistant to Eugene Winick a decade ago. Winick is head of the literary agency MacIntosh & Otis. They’re serious heavy hitters in the literary world – estate agent to Steinbeck, agent to Mary Higgins Clark and the like. But I was thirty. I wanted a baby and he wanted someone slightly less nervous and distracted. Sometimes I think about what might have been. But I’m happy where I am now so I try to just stay here and be grateful my life worked as well as it did.

Both my Algebra III teacher and my Chemistry teacher (oddly, both named Mrs. Williams) were appalled that I was going to college to be a drama major (later switched to English, no less appalling). I sometimes wonder if I’d tried harder to like math and science if I’d have been able to enjoy them and be good at them, instead of being good at them and loathing them as I did at 17.

The Pamir Highway

I often wonder what would have happened if I’d gone to art school right after high school, instead of architecture (unsuccessful), electronics (graduated), work, animation (unsuccessful), work, layoff, and web development school (in the midst of). This may have been one of the biggest decisions I’ve made wrong.

But I couldn’t imagine for the life of me how I as any sort of artist would support myself. How was I to know about things like, to give just one example, the animation boom of the early nineties, which was just around the corner?

Romantically, things have worked out pretty well for me. I know how the lives of my past loves have turned out so far, and sadly for 2 of the 3 it’s not at all what I would have hoped or wished for them. Speaking for myself, I both chose wisely and got lucky. No wondering about that.

While I also feel very lucky in the career/employment arena - when I discovered that I really didn’t want to do what I thought I did right out of college, I managed to cobble together something different that has kept me interested, in work and in comfort since then - I do wonder what would have happened if I’d set my mind to something else back at the start.

I should have taken a year off after high school and before college. I really needed the time to mature outside of the hothouse that college can be. But, my mom was convinced that if I didn’t start college right away, I never would. I should have gone to a larger college, not the safe bet university that took me. I should have left my major undeclared until my late sophomore year and tried some things out.

I should have thrown caution to the wind and pursued one crazy dream before I was too old, sick, tired, or medicated to do so.

Straight to The Crazy, and I wonder how you fought off its fatal allure.

(shrug) I sometimes wonder if ambition and dreams are all they are cracked up to be because I never managed to stick to one for very long. I entered college because I felt it was expected of me. I thought that being an English professor wasn’t the worst way to make a living, and it beat going to Vietnam, the fate of a lot of other aimless guys my age. Then I caught the J bug and I spent a year wanting to be the next Mike Royko, but I couldn’t get my typing speed up high enough. The last two years were devoted to Anthropology with a side of Archaeology, but I coasted to a degree, not really planning to carry on in it, but because it was what I had the most credit hours in.

I got married after graduating, still aimless, and my wife thought I might like being a draftsman because I liked to draw and was OCD, an important job skill. I found I liked being the best in my industry, whatever industry I was in at the moment, and staying ahead of the technological curve. Then I entered a subset of a field where I could be the best and make loads of money without the pressure of keeping up. The world caught up with then passed me and software that we got a quarter-million for could be duplicated on your iPad so we went bust. CAD software and mechanical design, which I hadn’t done for fifteen years, were conceptually completely different and I was in the position of a kid fresh out of high school, except he had classes in the new stuff already. I took to the drink, wanting to die, and I nearly succeeded. Then I sobered up, though my attitude was the same, and here I am, a telemarketer who is not the best in the industry and making a quarter of what I used to make.

And you know what? I don’t think anything but the details would be different if I had married that girl because I’d still be the aimless guy I was in high school. The scenery on the fork may have been different, but the road still went in the same direction.

I never tried to get into any of the following:

  1. homosexual relation
  2. drugs (I’ve tried it though)
  3. gambling (tried it too)
  4. over-leveraging myself
  5. emigrating
  6. career in sales, mass media, any front-line service job
  7. bi/polygamy
  8. self-employment

NB: been to fights, got arrested, got creamed while drunk, got chased out of a place and job by a jealous husband, lost friends for being a plain a-hole.

I still had my great moments. :smiley:

Back in the 1980s, I had a girlfriend named Liz. She was a great young lady. We were inseparable.

We decided to get married, and that’s when the problems began. It seemed that Liz was one of those girls who had planned her wedding out since she was ten. She would have six bridesmaids; I was to have six groomsmen. She wanted to conceive on the wedding night; our wedding date was planned according to her menstrual cycle. Yes, she plotted it out on the calendar over two years.

In the two-year interim, she expected to be the guest of honor at various showers, she planned to attend various dress fittings. She made guest lists that were 75% her relatives, “because my step-Uncle Joe, his wife Sarah and their kids expect to attend. You don’t have such an extended family, so the extra spots can go to my family.”

I was told that my parents should pay half of this fairytale wedding. I was told that I was expected to become Roman Catholic, as Liz was (I was baptized Protestant); and according to tradition, if we were married in a Roman Catholic church, I had to be Roman Catholic, and convert. I was told that my Protestant relatives had to sit while the Catholics took Holy Communion. I was told a lot. Remarks from me meant nothing; I was told.

My Protestant mother said, “Screw that, if the @#$% Catholics have to eat Jesus and drink wine, then I’m going out for a smoke and a snort from a flask.” (Yes, seriously, that was my Mom. Mom lived by the Golden Rule: she was as nice as the day is long if you were the same, but treat her as a second-class, less-than-you person, and she’d react. Not always pleasantly; Mom could be quite blunt.)

Still. Mom had a good idea. Weddings are about joining families, not driving them apart.

In the end, I told Liz that if all she was focused on was the wedding, and not our life together, I wasn’t interested. We broke up.

Epilogue: I did run into Liz twenty years later online. She brought me up-to-date with her family whom I knew. She did meet somebody who she married and had kids with. She is very happy. So am I. I am not vindictive; I wish her, her husband, and her kids, all the best. I am happy as I am. It would seem to be a win-win for all parties.

But still … I wonder.

I’m medically disqualified for military service. Psychiatric grounds—nothing exotic, really, OCD and clinical depression. Without going into too much detail, bad enough at least to need medication—ever since I was 17.

Sometimes, I just wonder if I could have just…“toughed it out” somehow, or should have. Maybe just kept my mouth shut at the right time.

Why? For some sense of duty, or direction—maybe it would have “made a man out of me.” Maybe at least just taken someone else’s place. Maybe I could have made a…difference somewhere, somehow. Maybe I could have saved someone, or pushed a box around in a warehouse somewhere that turned out to be mildly helpful to someone more important.

Probably, though, I’d be dead. Either I’d snap and throw myself in front of a bus, or just get myself stupidly killed somehow. Maybe halfway between the two, and I’d have an “accident” that wasn’t quite suspicious enough to keep the survivor benefits from paying out.

Maybe I’d be in the exact same place I am today, just with four years experience shoveling polar bear crap off of a radar station in Alaska, and some photos of myself with a bad haircut.

“Maybe,” “probably”…that’s just the hell of it, I don’t know. But I can’t help but wonder if I—or everyone else—would have been better off. One way, or another. :frowning:

Well, the way I see it, there were 3-4 possible outcomes:

1 - She was trying to play with my feelings, blowing hot and cold and all that. I’m sure glad that I avoided it because I would so have fallen for it.

2 - She wasn’t sure of what she wanted. Again, I’m lucky that I didn’t go down that road. I had been single for about two years and half at the time and the last thing I needed was another short-term, on-off thing.

3 - She just wanted a friend. Well, sorry if it sounds superficial but that’s not what I had in mind. Sooner or later, it would have ended up with the friendzone argument, like the one I had with Cindy.

4 - It would have led to a happy, committed relationship. Hey, why not, let’s give her the benefit of doubt. It’s not like it really matters after all these years.

Now, how did I fight it off? I think I was really lucky that Cindy came back into my life at the same time. That was a girl whom I had been an idiot to and who still cared for me enough to forget about it and reconnect with me even though she lived thousands of miles away. That meant everything to me and it probably gave me the strength to turn down Diane, a girl that dozens of guys were desperatly trying to seduce.

But boy, was she pretty :smiley: .

I had a similar situation. I wanted to study Engineering and the most practical pathway was a to be a what is called a “forces candidate”. I would have had to serve 5 years as an officer in the Army after graduation (damn, I would have been done by now). I could have ended up serving in combat on the Western border. Or I could have been assigned to the Strategic Forces, I have had a life long fascination with rocketry after all.

All in all, I am glad the way things turned out.

dropzone that was a nicely written OP. It was… wistful.

I will share, but don’t have the time now. I look forward to reading this thread later, and others’ sharings.