Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Back Step in Time

For many years I considered mind games such as ‘what if…’ and ‘but if not for…’ to be exercises in futility. They were simply excuses to ponder ones history and guess what might have happened back then. It was nothing more than living in the past. I don’t intend to recount my ‘glory days’ until there are no more mountains to conquer and no more seas to cross.

Now a couple of recent conversations have changed my perspective on the matter.

In his book ‘Self Matters’ Dr. Phil McGraw, Ph.D. (Yeah, I know, Dr. Phil) suggests the reader identify ten defining moments in their lives and seven critical choices they’ve made. The number I assume is arbitrary. The point is that each one of us has made critical choices in our past lives and whether we knew it or not at the time it changed the direction of our lives dramatically.

Cretin High School - Photo Credit Jerry Hoffman

I’d already gone through that exercise many years ago and it proved to be enormously eye-opening.  There were a number of events in my younger years that propelled me into what and where I am today. Those were life-altering events such as being accepted into Cretin High School, returning to the College of Saint Thomas, living abroad, getting married, starting my own business, my investments and even getting fired once. Each event helped shape the person I evolved into. Along with those events were life experiences and relationships that could have gone either way.

After reminiscing with a couple of old friends about our respective lives I was forced to turn my attention to those people, events and actions of mine that might have gone in another direction. Despite past prejudices against ruminating through my past I found myself drawn to some old pictures. At that point my over-active imagination ran rampant with repetitive thoughts about what if…

The dye was cast and the mold begun. I was scheduled to go to Monroe High School at first until a last minute cancellation got me into Cretin. Monroe was a good school but it wouldn’t have been the same.

She was the first one. Emotions I’d never experienced before. Yet it withered and died like most high school romances.

An atypical college romance interrupted by two years of military service and a strong desire on her part to head out east. She went to Boston. I moved to Denmark.

Maria was my translator and confidant at the Danish laundry where I worked. She was married but a great friend. She wanted me to stay on but wanderlust pulled me away.

Her name was Heidi. She was a college student in Denmark. I met her when she worked briefly at the laundry before returning to campus. She wanted me to stay with her on the coast where she was in college. I deferred to better judgement. We lost touch with one another after I left for the south of France.

A Dutch potter and a painter. They were the best of friends and accepted me into their ragtag eclectic band of brothers. It was 1968 in Amsterdam and things were wild. They promised to get me a job and even had an apartment lined up that I could share with some of their friends. I had a job waiting for me back home but little else. It was very tempting. 

Neighborhood I almost moved to in Amsterdam

More of the neighborhood that didn't become mine

Amsterdam Nightclub 1968

Tram I would have taken to work in Amsterdam

Travel Agency where I would have worked in Amsterdam

Dam Square - site of a lot of anti-war demonstrations in the 1960s

In the end I declined their offer and returned home. We wrote for a little while then I / we moved on with our lives. A great group of folks.

We started writing to one another as pen pals.  I visited her in England once and she came to Ohio but we never hooked up…here or there. She was bright, fun and fascinated with the states. I think she wanted to be a librarian or a school teacher. I hope her wish came true.

Sharon - The power behind the rocking chair

Mix an ISTJ (off the charts) with an ENFJ (off the charts) and what do you get besides an affirmation that opposites attract. It worked for me. There were life twists and turns every step of the way. Even marriage and kids didn’t slow the evolution of our lives.

Now I pound the keyboard every day and wonder how I got here in the first place. It could have been Copenhagen or Amsterdam or Tennessee or Baltimore. Instead it’s a quiet street in Apple Valley, Minnesota and a mountain view out west.

Who knew?

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