Thanks to Writing Life Stories for inspiring this. Have you ever wondered what would have happened if you did something different in life, gone to a different college, married a different spouse? When I was a senior in high school in 1980, one of the many representatives from the various colleges who visited the counseling center was a nun from St. Mary’s College. My family wasn’t Catholic, but I knew people who were and found some of their religious practices fascinating so I took an interest in this particular institution of higher learning.
My parents teased me, saying I wanted to be a nun. Another relative told me that there was a federal penitentiary in Levenworth, and I could bake cookies for the inmates. I liked the idea that St. Mary’s College was only for girls because I didn’t have much luck with boys and figured I could do without them. For some reason however, I decided to stay here in Wyoming and go to Sheridan College for the first two years of my education after high school.
What if I had gone to St. Mary’s College in Levenworth, Kansas? After studying Greek, Latin, and other subjects they required, would I have decided to take up the monastic life after all? Instead of playing my guitar and singing for elderly nursing home residents as I did for fifteen years, would I be providing spiritual guidance to residents at the Levenworth prison? Like Sister Helen Prejean who wrote Dead Man Walking, would I be working with death row inmates, playing my guitar and singing as they breathed their last after being injected with lethal drugs? As a nun, I wouldn’t have met and married my late husband Bill, would I?
In 1984 while Bill was living in Glendale, California, I visited Los Angeles with my family in order to attend my uncle’s wedding. Bill later told me that I wasn’t too far from where he lived. What if our paths crossed then instead of twenty years later? With the nineteen-year age difference, would he have found me as attractive back then as he did in 2004? Would we have married after meeting in 1984 and had twenty good years before he suffered the strokes that paralyzed his left side?
At first, I didn’t consider a career in writing. My mother did most of my writing assignments for me when I was in high school and during the first two years of my college education. I could have easily typed my own papers, but when I did that, after proofreading them, she immediately rewrote them. When I asked why she didn’t like the way I wrote them, she said, “What if I have ideas.”
What if I had stood up to her, said, “Mother, this is my paper. What if I like the way I wrote it, and when I go to college, what if I major in English and get and MFA in creative writing.” If I actually followed through, would I now be a best-selling author? Would I have met and married Bill?
One thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a singer. What if instead of going to college and becoming a registered music therapist, I left home and somehow found my way to New York or Los Angeles? Would I now be a superstar with dozens of CDs on the best-seller list, traveling all over the country with a myriad of buses and trucks carrying people and equipment? Instead of playing the piano and singing for elderly nursing home residents, would I be singing with a band in crowded amphitheaters? Would I have met and married Bill or would he have been just another fan waiting in line for me to autograph his CDs?
It’s hard to say what the future would have held in store for us if we’d done things differently but fun to speculate, don’t you think?
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver