Friday, October 26, 2007

What Might Have Been

Have you ever wondered about the path not taken? Ever gotten a glimpse of what your life might have looked like if you’d made different decisions?

Last night I received the opportunity.

I was standing outside the convention center waiting for my husband to pick me up from my late night work event. One of my co-volunteers was kind enough to wait with me, along with her eleven year old granddaughter.

As we talked about this and that, we eventually ended up talking about her son, her granddaughter’s father. She described how he had been in a horrific motorcycle accident and was still in recovery. I marveled as she told me the story of his near death mishap.

I made the offhand comment that he had to be awfully young to lose so much mobility in his legs. “Yes,” she assured me. “He’s only 29.”

29? 29! I’m “only” 29, too. Of course, once I did the simplistic math, I realized it wasn’t unbelievable that I, too, could have had an eleven year old daughter by now. If I’d had her when I was 18.

When I was 18.

When I was 18, my real life was just beginning. I was off to college, meeting new friends, earning my degree, feeling the first surges of independence from my parents while safely anchored in a Christian environment. I was learning why I believed what I believed. I was finding my wings and becoming the beginning of who I wanted to be.

Children (and marriage, too) was the furthest thing from my mind.

While I was finding freedom, this man was witnessing the birth of his daughter. I have no doubt his life changed then, and from the time I shared with his daughter last night, he and his family have done a wonderful job of raising a well-adjusted young lady.

She is well-adjusted, but also a bit world weary, even at eleven. Her life has been filled with her mother’s boyfriends, father’s girlfriends, and the majority of her time spent with her caring (and active, vital) grandmother. This young woman seems to know her parents are still burning off the youth they must have sacrificed bringing her into the world, in lieu of college age mischief best spent in those in-between years.

I found myself thinking about having an eleven year old daughter. What kind of mother would I have been? Different, no doubt, than who I am today. Those 4 years between freshmen orientation and college graduation changed me profoundly, shaped me, and matured me in many ways.

No doubt unexpected parenthood does its share of changing and maturing, as well.

In spite of being grateful for the decisions I made when I was younger, I found myself somewhat wistful. The idea of having an eleven year old daughter with whom I could share my life and nurture into womanhood sounded like something I would very much enjoy.

It wasn’t that I was longing for different decisions, just getting a glimpse of what might have been.

It’s true that, along with the eleven year old daughter, I also didn’t have to experience painful break-ups, sacrifice my youthful independence, or experience frugal living long before I was ready.

When I said good-bye to my new friends, I found myself grateful for the chance to look in that mirror. To see what might have been. And to wonder who I might have been.

And then to find contentment with what is. What God ordained to be. Not in what might have been.


Anonymous said...

How awfully uncanny that you would post that question on the exact same day that I have found myself crying over what might have been... honestly in tears over what might have been. Not quite as sure as you that what is was exactly "ordained by God"...praying for peace.
I'm glad you're grateful for what is. I think that I am too mostly.

kittifrickit said...

this was weird for me too i was just crying over what "hopefully is" or"what might be" I know you will understand what i mean by that...I should just be thankful...never looking back only forward to what blessings there are to come.. love you. you are perfect just as you are and where you are in your life.

WendyJanelle said...

Ann-Marie,I love this post. Really. I'm one of those who had my first child at 19. Second child at 21. Got pregnant with my third in 2004 when I was in college full time. Had the fourth this year.
I was very young, and maybe gave up some freedoms, spending money, traveling, being carefree... but I feel like I'm fulfilling God's plan for me. I don't so much desire the other things.
When I'm 29, Isabelle will be almost 10-years old. While that is hard to believe, I think I'll enjoy it immensely!!
(And I love the way you managed to write this without being negative at all about either choice or plan! Thanks, girl!) :-)

Anonymous said...

Sometimes what might have been only seems better because it wasn't right? So we never had to put up with all the difficulty that would have come of it?

The Beard Bunch said...

It seems like when we remember back or consider what could have been that we always hi-light the glamour of it. Every life carries burdens and challenges---that is certain. I thank God for what He is; that is the only certain thing that never changes. Love your insight and thougtful reflection. Here is one: "What if Grandma would have stopped at child #5????" WHOA :)

Cindy Swanson said...

Hi Ann-Marie...totally off-topic, but I wanted to tell you about this incredible book that my mom got me that has been SOOO helpful in dealing with my diabetes.

It is "Magic Foods for Better Blood Sugar," and it's put out by Reader's Digest. I'm not sure if you can buy it in stores, but you can order it here.

This book is incredibly practical and's chock-ful of recipes and great advice. It's been a godsend for me!

I also have gotten some great info and recipes in a little magazine you can get at the grocery store check-out, "Outsmart Diabetes." It's put out by Prevention Magazine.

By making a few changes and including some key foods in your diet, you can put off diabetes and maybe not ever get it!

Juliet said...

I'm Content that He gave you to me when He did.:>) Love, Mom