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.