Monday, September 5, 2011

All My Mistakes

I bought a one way ticket for Ireland after I graduated from college. Hopped up on Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemmingway, I had it in my mind that I was going to find some crummy job in a dirty pub in some tiny village, and I was going to be a writer. I had no idea what I was going to write about, but I imagined that wherever I ended up, the location would provide the material. Living alone in a foreign country seemed like a good recipe for literature-worthy experiences. I knew almost nothing about what it took to be a writer, but I did know that moving to a far away place was part of the equation for the writers I looked up to. It was - the moving far away - the most interesting part to me. Once that was accomplished, I was certain that whatever else might be required would follow. That was my plan, but two months before I left, my future wife asked me out, and soon after, my one way ticket became a return one.

My wife doesn’t like it when I tell that story. Her fatalistic streak sees it as the story of my unfulfilled dream. But it’s not. I don’t regret coming back. I had the time of my life there, but not once on the trip did I wish I could stay longer. Instead, I spent most of the time missing what I’d left behind, looking forward to getting back to her. Now, almost fifteen years later, I can’t recall a single instance where I regretted my decision, even on our worst day together. That’s not to say I don’t wonder how my life would be different if I had stayed. I try to picture what might have played out, where I would be now, and I marvel at the power a single decision has over the course of a life, my life and the lives of those mixed up with me.

Violet reminded me of this the other morning, as she turned her head back and forth, me following with a full spoon, and she, flatly refusing to take in any more breakfast. I happened to glance at the calendar nearby, noticing that the beginning of school was now less than a week away. Once it was here, someone else would be feeding Violet breakfast on most days, or at least trying to, and I would be elsewhere, missing it. It made me think of all the other first days of school I’ve been through as a teacher, and the fact that there was no Violet to miss before this one. It led to the frightening thought of, “What if there was no Violet? What if she hadn’t happened? What if Linda had had a “headache” 18 months ago?” It made me realize that I’ve grown used to Violet being here. No. It’s more than “used to.” She is essential. She is something I didn’t know I couldn’t live without until it arrived. Like an iPod. Only way better. Much, much better. Okay, an iPod’s not even in the same league. I just can’t think of anything else that even comes close.

All this went through my head this afternoon as I drove back from the grocery store, Violet asleep in the back seat. I was listening to a song – specifically, the chorus – that I’ve heard dozens of times. It never inspired anything special in my mind until today, when it caused me to, once again, sit in awe of the power of a single decision, and how fortunate I am that my collection of decisions deposited me here.

Here’s the chorus:
But I can't go back
And I don't want to
'Cause all my mistakes
They brought me to you

288 days old


  1. Wow, so powerful!Thanks for sharing that. I will continue reading these as long as you write them.

  2. Life has a way of guiding us to things we never imagined. Only when we give in to what is meant through destiny, or God do we reach our fullest potential.


  3. I just read a slew of your beautiful! These days are quick and lovely indeed, and you are savoring them for yourself, and also for us. Thank you. A.

  4. Tony - Thanks again - only about two months of posts left. Can you beleive it?

  5. DMD - Thanks for the thoughtful comment - good for pondering.

    Amy LV - You're welcome. I savor as much as I can, but I still feel like I'm doing it on the run.