I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for television shows like Lost and Quantum Leap or movies like Back to the Future II and the new Star Trek films. Growing up a slight sci-fi nerd probably helped stoke the flame of my interest. But honestly, I blame Jimmy Stewart and It’s a Wonderful Life for gifting me with the ability to understand the ramifications of the actions we take or fail to take in our lives.
George Bailey is an awesome theologian.
Before Ashley and I started our romantic relationship, we had already firmly established a platonic one. Not that we were old friends or even extremely close ones for that matter; we had simply both begun working at the same university at roughly the same time in the same department. As such, we were around one another a lot, spending time together both in the office and out of it. We bonded first as co-workers, then as friends, and next as the best of friends.
But before too long, I began to feel more for her than just as someone I wanted to hang out with on the weekends.
I started to want to hang out with her every weekend…and most every weeknight also, for that matter.
She had feelings for me as well, but because we were co-workers, she was hesitant to commit to a dating relationship. She was willing to do so if, like in some quasi-Old Testament ritual, our respective supervisors gave their blessing on our (metaphorical) union. I still tease her about how she probably didn’t want to go out with me in the first place, and that it was only at my insistence that we are together today.
One night, I jokingly asked a question which inadvertently brought the evening’s levity to a screeching halt:
“What if I had actually listened to you and stopped trying to ask you out?”
The Divergent Timeline
Before I met Ashley, I had my life planned out to perfection: I was going to get my Ph.D., in Higher Education Administration, and work for a few more years in administration before transitioning to a teaching position at the Master’s level, all the while still conducting research, hosting seminars, and getting published in peer-reviewed journals.
It was a good life, a noble and honorable life, but in many ways an empty one. I had no desire to be in a relationship, never to get married, and God forbid I should have a child. And then I met Ashley.
And the quest for that solitary life ended pretty quickly after that.
Again, the life I had planned out was not one that was meaningless, but something inside me urged me to pursue her instead of remaining focused on my career.
But what if?
What if I had ignored the desire of my heart – Ashley – and instead focused my resolve on my other goals? To be fair, she and I could have and probably would have remained close friends had we not become a couple. And today, the next generation of individuals entering the field of Student Affairs would – naturally – see me as something of a legend and giant in my field.
But when I think on what I would have lost…the incalculable number of hours spent laughing; the life that entered into and healed my heart the day she first said “I love you;” a hand to hold and shoulder to lean on at my dad’s funeral; moving first to Miami and then to South Carolina and all the people I’ve met since then; the culmination of my dream of being a writer and getting published; experiencing Malakai’s life; the upcoming birth of our second child in June of 2013…
I would have lost an entire lifetime. All because I dared to not follow through on where I felt my life was leading me.
The Promise of Zuzu’s Petals
It’s deceptively easy, especially at this time of year, to make a resolution to promise to eat better, exercise more, or not eat the entire pizza the next time. None of us are granted with the ability to look down the corridors of our lives and see what lies in the future, so we don’t know.
We don’t know if there’s a consequence to be had in not going to the gym tomorrow.
We don’t even live under the promise of there being a tomorrow.
I see the life I have now, and the vision I once held so clearly of what I thought it was going to be like is nothing but hazy and distant. I don’t feel a loss for what could have been, nor do I feel any regrets over leaving it behind. But to think of what I have now and how easily it could have never come to be simply if I had not had the resolve to just follow through on what I felt was the right thing for me to do makes me physically ill.
In It’s a Wonderful Life, it was the discovery of flower petals – once a symbol to him of many of the frustrations in his life – back in his pocket that gave George Bailey such joy at the end of the film.
What once was lost had now been found: his life. His loves. His very reason for being.
It’s sometimes interesting to imagine the “what if’s” of our lives, but we should never lose sight of the beauty of the many “what is’s” that are in front of us daily, tangible evidence of and testaments to the strength of our resolutions.
Have you had resolutions you have or haven’t kept? How have they changed your path?
[photo: Vasanthcullen, Creative Commons]