09 April 2013

Alternate Realities..

I have been thinking a lot about the "What if"s in my life. For example, what if I'd gone to Howard University in Washington, DC (on a full scholarship, mind you) instead of Oakwood College (now University) in Huntsville, Alabama when I graduated from high school? What if I'd pursued a career in journalism (my passion in high school) instead of choosing a "safe, sensible" career major like accounting (which I don't even use in my current career choice)? What if I wasn't a "foodie"? What if I'd been born into the Catholic/Baptist/Buddhist/anything but Adventist faith? What if my answer to that marriage proposal has been "yes"? What if I had chosen to have children? What if I have been born into a different family or in a different time in history or in a different part of the world? What if I really were an only child? What if Shemar Moore was as much in love with me as I am with him? What if I knew what bacon tasted like and loved it as much as some of my friends do? What if...what if...what if...

There are a lot of science fiction movies that have explored this possibility when offering up the theory of alternate universes and/or alternate realities. There is always the implication that the hero or heroine's life is "better" whenever they made different choices at key times in their lives. But I somehow believe, deep in my heart, that you are who you are and that, because there is a plan for your life, you end up where (and with whom) you are supposed to end up. Does that mean I believe that our lives are preordained and we have no control over our lives? Not at all. It's hard to explain, but let me take a stab at it.

Take any regular "ideal" family - a mom, a dad, two to four kids, a pet of some kind, a home full of love and a drive to be all that you can be. This mom and dad raise all of their children the same - and yet, due to personal choices made by each child, one becomes a responsible, give back to society, successful family person; another ends up on drugs, irresponsible and feeling like nothing is his/her fault and that everyone "owes" him or her because s/he never asked to be here anyway; another one gets pregnant out of wedlock; and the final child just takes off to live his/her own life in their own way. Of course, these are extremes, but we all know a similar scenario. How does it happen that children, all raised the same way, with the same set of values, mores and guidelines, sometimes turn out so differently? Because of their personal choices and the decisions they make along the way.

Most people who know me know the story of my teenage years in New York. For years, I didn't talk about what happened behind the closed doors of our home in the Bronx, but as I've grown older, I have recognized the value - not only for me, but for others - in being honest about that time in my life. I strive to always be conscious of that fact that while it is my story to tell, I must be respectful to the fact that it is also the right of the others impacted by the circumstances to either tell or not tell their own truths about that time. Now, having made that as clear as mud, and having said that as cryptically as possible, let's move on. One of the things that I learned from that experience was that I could either use the experience as a "stepping stone" to overcome all of the negative things that were said to me over the course of years in New York. I could prove my stepfather wrong and become so much more than he said I would be. Or I could use his words as a "stumbling block" or an "excuse" to become exactly what he said I would become (and believe me, there wasn't a lot of good in what he tried to feed into my psyche and soul). Let's not get it twisted - there was a time in my life where I did try to live up (or should I say, "live down") to all of his predictions. It is only by God's grace that I didn't stay on the path that I started down in my mid-to-late 20s.

With God's help and patience and leading, I eventually got off the "stumbling block" path and chose the "stepping stone" path for my life. I finished college (yeah, it took me 8 years instead of 4, but I did it). I bought my first home at the age of 32 and praise God, have never been late with a single payment and have been able to bless and be a blessing to others through it. A year ago, God blessed and I wrote, edited and published my first (maybe not last?) book. And while I never imagined that I would be single at this age or that I would have spent the last 16 years living with my mother (I mean, I left home at 17 so that that would NOT be my reality!) - I have learned to make life as beautiful as I can right where I am. I am not trying to say life has been easy, or that I always took the high road , or that I always made the right decisions along the way ... but here I am - still standing, still strong, and still praising the God I was introduced to as a child.

And I wouldn't change THAT reality for anything in the world.