Monday, September 29, 2008

The Road Not Taken

I came out here tonight to write this thing, but I'm finding that my heart just isn't really in it at the moment. That's not really true. I really came out here, primarily, to read Mike's post. Then I decided to write this thing. But the heart comment is still fairly accurate. Oh well, forging on...

It's time for a little bit of what iffery. Hm... I'm not really sure how to get the ball rolling on this topic. See, the thing is, this could be a topic that I could write about for years and never finish. Like... Years straight of writing. Thousands upon thousands of pages. Because there is always a road not taken. .In every decision or happening that occurs, something else could have occurred instead that would make everything that follows it completely different. So, for the purposes of this, I'm going to focus on Jess.

Jess was, pretty much, my first really big crush. In the interest of full disclosure the previous statement is entirely untrue in every respect. My first really big crush was Sarah, back in sixth grade. I asked her out, she said no (the first of... Well, not many... But the first and then there came everyone else I asked out) and then we were friends for a while longer. And then she got really obnoxiously girly, and then I think she got really obnoxiously anti-girly.... The point is, soon after she said no she changed and I was no longer interested in her anyway. And I don't really think I have any friends currently who even know who she is. There's a chance Lior might remember her if I brought her up, but he'd have to try to think back to middle school and there's really no reason to bring her up at all. That was a stupid tangent to have gone on, and I should, but won't, delete it.

So, Jess. I actually don't remember meeting her. I'm sure I must have been peripherally aware of her existence back in sixth grader. And then I changed schools. And then I met her again in freshman year of high school. This is the meeting that I specifically don't remember. What I do remember is coming home after school that day and flopping down on the bed in the computer room and burying my face in the blanket and seeing her face. I hadn't realized that I had a crush on her until that. I still think it's weird the way that happened. How I hadn't even realized it until that moment, and that is the moment I remember all these years later.

That little story was, again, not entirely pertinent to the subject at hand. It was just some unnecessary and sappy background filler.

Okay, well cut to roughly nowish. Jess was down a couple weeks ago and we hung out, and when I was driving her home she pointed out Kevin's house. That was the catalyst for this current line of thought.

Cutting back to ninth grade: I got to know Jess more and we hung out some and whatnot, and the crush got bigger. So, at some point, I decided to ask her out. That was a big deal decision for me back then. I don't know that it would be now if I were in the same situation, but it might be. That's irrelevant. The point is, when I finally decided to ask her, it turned out Kevin had asked her like... The day before or something and they were currently going out. See how that cut came into play? Everything is fitting together quite nicely now, eh?

So, I went through my self destructive depressed phase, like I do, and then I moved on. Jess and I stayed friends.

But what if I had asked her a couple days sooner? Looking back, I'm pretty sure she would have said yes. So then what would have happened? At some point in high school things got really bad for her. I'm not entirely sure why. I think it had a lot to do with her parents, and then that probably extended a lot into her relationships with her friends, which she seemed to have mostly lost. But what if she had been dating me at the time? Instead of dating a string of guys that were, very obviously, bad for her and probably added to the horribleness of whatever it was she was going through at the time, she had been with me, who would have been there for her and to try to make things more bearable? There are little things that happen every day that change out lives tremendously, but could this have been a rather big thing that would have ostensibly changed hers' for the better. All of that is, quite honestly, very possible. Instead of telling her parents that she was hanging out with me as a cover for w hen she was hanging out with people they wouldn't approve of, she could have been actually hanging out with me. Now, some of the people her parents "didn't approve of" were perfectly fine people and there was really nothing wrong with her being with them. But some, probably a lot, weren't. And she would have been far better off not hanging out with them doing the things that they were doing.

So, assuming all of that could have been true, where would that have put me? This is a bit of a tougher question, because with her I was thinking in broad generalities, and with me I am thinking more specifically. Would I have not dated Meg? Or Dana? Or Stacy? Probably not. Not having dated any one... Well... Maybe not Meg... Of those people would have made me, probably, a much different person than I am today. Better? In a lot of respects. Maybe worse in a few. But I think being with Jess would have made up for the ways that those girls made me a better person.

I know I would be better off right now if I had never dated Stacy. And even better off if I were still dating Stacy. If either of those things were true, there's a good chance I would have given my life some sort of direction, instead of where it is now. But let's try to keep this hypothetical train on the tracks and not turn this into the aforementioned thousands page diatribe (i wonder if I used that word correctly)

The problem with this line of thinking is that after the first hypothetical, it leads inescapably into a whole slew of new hypotheticals that can be neither proven or disproven. And any one of them being wrong leads all of the following assumptions in an entirely different direction.

So, here's where the train really comes off the tracks: (I've used that metaphor twice in way too short a time period, and with slightly different meaning) Most of the supposition from earlier wouldn't have happened anyway.

Yes. It's possible that everything would have turned out great and that we would now be living together, both moderately successful and happy. But that really isn't very likely, is it? She would have been my first real girlfriend, and what's more likely is that it would have ended in heartbreak, just at a different time. And so maybe that time period would have extended through Meg. But, in all likelihood, the only thing that would be different if I had asked her out a couple days earlier is that my history of heartbreak would be written slightly differently. In all likelihood, she would still have eventually gone down the same paths as she did. Maybe it would have taken her a little longer to get to them. Maybe I would have staved them off for a little while. But, in all likelihood, we would probably both be in roughly the same place today as we are anyway. Maybe gotten there differently, and maybe we wouldn't still be talking to each other from time to time and hanging out when she's down. But for the most part, things would be the same now as they are anyway.

So, what does that mean for the road not taken theory? Do things work out, generally, the same way regardless?

No. This flight of fancy didn't, realistically, happen to pan out into the perfection that my earlier posturing suggested that it might. But the little paragraph about Stacy would, I believe, have me in a completely different place than I am. And so I still believe that the little things, like manning up and asking out a girl just a couple days sooner, can have a drastic effect on the entire life that follows.

There are also other things that would have changed as a result of having asked her a couple days sooner. Assuming she said yes, which I choose to, I presently wouldn't have been rejected every time I have asked someone out. And that little fact could have changed my life drastically--maybe more drastically than the ensuing relationship has been shown to probably not have done.

But, I really don't feel like going into how.

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