Wishing one could go back in time and relive some part of one’s life is tempting, but with a little reflection it is easy to see that changin perhaps even a small decision or action is loaded with unintended, life changing consequences. The poet Robert Frost made this point clearly in his poem, “The Road Not Taken.” He wrote, in part: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both.And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could, To where it bent in the undergrowth . . . Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” But still, I look wistfully backward to a handful of decisions I made and wonder what and where I would be had I taken that different path.
I attended high school from 1946 to1950. Those years, coming immediately after “The War” as they did, were a time when what was happening with kids was not a high priority. There were veterans to help re-adjust, thousands of babies to be conceived and born, new cars to build and buy and new homes to be built and bought. What was happening to kids in America’s schools was not even “on the radar.” Consequently I coasted through high school without applying myself, without benefit of any career guidance and, because my parents were still grief-stricken over the loss of one of their sons in The War, little or no parental educational guidance or concern. This, indirectly, led me to make my first wrong decision. With little thought I enrolled in a four-year university and signed up to major in Music Education. Lacking study skills and self-discipline I floundered terribly through my classes, was placed on “Academic Probation” at the end of my Freshman year and stumbled through three years of college before enlisting into the Fifth Army Band. After three years in that unit I married my wife, returned to college and earned decent grades but it was too little, too late. I graduated with a less-than-“C” grade point average.
So, if I could relive the time immediately after graduating high school I would enroll in the nearby Community College where I would have received more personal attention, had a better chance to learn how to study, and would have gotten helpful career guidance. In hindsight, although I love music I believe there were better career choices for me. Or, had I continued to major in music I would have been better prepared for the demands of a large, impersonal university. But had I done that would I have met my beautiful, faithful, and supportive wife? Probably not. And I cannot imagine a lady more suited to me than my wife.
The next point in my life I’d like to live over was my enlisting into the Fifth Army Band. Most of the men in that unit were from the Upper Midwest. They were from a different culture than I was accustomed to and cliquish. I was not a good “fit” for that band. I should have either enlisted into the Fourth Army Band where I would have been with men with a more similar background or allow myself to be drafted and hopefully get into an Army Division Band. Again, though, I met my wife because I was in the 5thArmy band. What would my life have been without her?
I did well in my career as a junior high school band director for seven years. Then our school district opened a new high school and I decided to “campaign vigorously” for the job as band director at that school. I got the job. Too late I realized that I had “traded a big, fat turkey for a scrawny old buzzard.” I had been successful in my previous position. I struggled as a high school band director. If I could replay that moment in my life I would continue in the junior high school. In moving to the high school I had violated “The Peter Principle.”
Several years later I had redirected my career, earned a Ph.D. in Education and held a nice job as an Associate Principal of a large high school in a large suburban Kansas City school district. I was respected and could have stayed on with normal career advancement in that school district until I retired. However my long-term goal after finishing my degree was to be a college professor. An opportunity came to take a position in Youngstown OH State University and I made the move. If I could turn the clock back I would not have accepted that job. Again, I “stepped over a dollar bill to pick up a quarter.” Yet, my moving to Ohio ultimately led to a situation in which it was practical for me to earn my Private Pilot’s License, a dream I had held since childhood. Had I not become a pilot our youngest son might never have become an airline pilot, a career he dearly loves. Would those things have happened had I stayed in the suburban KC school system? Who can say?
In the later years of my working life I made other decisions that I would do differently if I could pull them back. But a wise counselor told me a great truth about life a few years ago. He said simply, “You had to be who you were, where you were, doing what you did to be who and where you are now.” To paraphrase Robert Frost, “I took the road I traveled and followed where it led me, and that made all the difference. That road led me to live a lifetime with a wonderful girl/woman, father five productive, responsible human beings, and find a church that directs my path towards a blessed eternity. Do I have regrets? Of course. Would I, however, risk changing any part of the life I have lived? Absolutely not.
I really appreciate your perspective here, and how utterly refreshing to hear a man in this day and age make the statement, "...would I have met my beautiful, faithful and supportive wife? Probably not. And I cannot imagine a lady more suited to me than my wife." Bravo, Sir.
Thanks, Susan. Obviously (at 79) I belong to a different "day and age." My wife is the crowning jewel of my life. In honesty, I must admit that in my younger years, when I was "career scrabbling" I didn't appreciate her nearly as much as I should've. In my old age I feel sorry for any man who didn't have the privilege of spending their life with a lady the quality of my wife. And there are many women lacking those qualities it seems.