I have long been intrigued by the labyrinth that is life, the twists and turns determined by our directional decisions. Even having lived a fairly simple, straight-forward life thus far, there are moments in my life that radically changed its course and thus have led me to who and where I am today. I often wonder who I would be had I made different decisions at each turn, or had those moments played out differently.
I think back and look at the potential I had in certain areas when I was younger. I could have been a violinist, a runner, a martial artist, a lawyer, a bartender, an actress. At some point in my life these interests, however exciting or mundane, respectable or less so, could have decided who I am today. I could have lived any of those lives. Was there a point at which I made the decision not to be those people?
Well, sort of. I decided that my almost life-long dream of going to Law school to study International Law (and then save the world, single-handedly bringing an end to genocide around the globe) was not a reasonable one, given the lifestyle I had chosen as a military wife, moving every few years with my husband. At an earlier point, I had decided that being an actress or a bartender just weren’t for me.
But the rest of those people I could have been, what happened to them? At what point did I decide that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be a runner? Did I think that to be a runner was somehow mutually exclusive with my other interests? That must have been it, because I gave up running after I went to college and joined the debate team. And I gave up the violin even earlier, but at least I’ve continued to drag my violin from one closet to another as I have pushed the violinist in me further and further away. And the martial arts? Well, I gave that up when I joined the Cross Country team in high school, because surely I could not have done both. Why did I give all that up? Where did all those other Amandas go, successful in so many different ways, happy in their singular focus in life?
To be fair, there were other Amandas, less happy or successful, whom I also could have been: for example, the Amanda that could have gone on to do anything but marry my husband, or the Amanda that went to another college and did not have the chance to meet some of the most important people in my life. The Amanda that stayed in an unhappy relationship forever, or the one that allowed herself to be degraded and disrespected by her mother’s husband; either of them could have lived on. Many of those versions of myself could have avoided the obstacles of being a military spouse, but none of them could have lived to be the woman that I am today.
All of these moments and decisions in my life, however obvious or subtle, happy or painful, have brought me to the life I live today. While it is interesting to look back and wonder who or where I would be had I handled those differently, I celebrate that those moments do not define me. Rather, they are pieces of who I am, who I have been, and who I can always become. I’ll never be a bartender, and I will always be Casey’s wife, but I can also be so many other people. In just a few months, I am running my first half-marathon, because I refuse to look back and say, “I could have been a runner.” Today, I am a crafter, a friend, a billing specialist, a wife, a student, a blogger, a runner, and above all, a woman who can do so many things.
Life is too short to look back at the things you could have done and wonder why you gave them up. There is always a reason for today, so we should be making our decisions every day to become the person we want to be. This way, we will never have to look back and wonder if we should have chosen a different path. We should pick up our running shoes, our violins, our LSAT study guides; and go on to live our best lives, the lives we were born to live.
As for me, I can look back and say with certainty that of all the people I could have been, I am my favorite one. I will continue to work harder to be better and better at being happy and fighting for the Amanda that’s still here through it all.