Choices: Are You Proud of Yourself?

Stormy Weather.

Stormy Weather.

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Choices we make on an average day: 312 (a purely scientific number)

Packets of oatmeal I eat each morning: 2

One day the summer after I graduated from college, I stood in the warehouse of a special effects design studio.

There were masks, molds, goopy goop, clay and long tables filled with evidence of an artist at work.

I never really knew the boy/man who owned it, the one who created monsters and zombies for movies. He had sat nearby in my high school homeroom each day without us ever exchanging more than a “good morning.” But my mom knew his family through her work at the bank, and she scored us a tour through his little shop of horrible, ghoulish creations.

Back in high school, homerooms consisted of kids with last names alphabetically similar to our own. One girl with my same last name sat in front of me for four years in a row. She was a cheerleader who wore sweat pants with words printed across the bum. She had an annoying habit of announcing, “I am so proud of myself!” several times in the 15 minutes we spent desk-to-desk.

At a time when “preppy” was considered so mid-1980s, one of the boys, a football player, wore a neatly ironed button-down shirt most days. Sometimes in a pastel pink.

One kid who sat nearby revered the band Rush and smelled of marijuana at an hour of the day when my Wheaties were just barely making an appearance in my belly.

So by the time I was post-college, the guy who always sat quietly at the back of the room who created this whole Hollywood life for himself without fitting into the expected college-grad school-corporate-job mold surprised me. As he proudly showed off his portfolio with professional photos of grisly masks used in real, mass-produced films, I wondered: what had I done during my pizza-eating, falling-in-love, broadcast-journalism-unpaid-journalism-internship college career?

I was so predictable.

Not long after leaving the horror fest, I started waiting tables and met our high school’s former mascot. After college, instead of getting a job in his field (so predictable!), he decided to get a job in Tahiti at a Club Med there. He taught windsurfing.

There may have been a low point that day when I was forced to carry out 12 Diet Coke refills in a row. Windsurfing. Tahiti. Really?

Recently, I had lunch with a friend who wondered why she wasn’t as successful as some of her friends, friends who had traveled the world teaching in Africa, hosting national news broadcasts and writing stories about Haiti and its recovery.

I swallowed my bite of barbecue sandwich and eyed her across the table.

Do they have two gorgeous children? I asked her. When they fly home from Africa, do they have a partner to tell about their terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day?

No, she said. No, they don’t.

And they are probably perfectly happy with that fact, I said. But she wouldn’t be; she made the choice years ago to take a different path.

I am reminded almost daily of the paths we take, the choices we make in our lives that create unique selves. Our choices add up to lots of stories, to a whole life filled with color.

Some things we can’t control: illness, acts of nature, deaths of family members or close friends.

But the things we can control; what of those? Are you making the choices you will be happy with years from now?

What is one choice you have made lately that makes you feel proud of yourself?