Life is like a…jump start your brain

alphabetsoupAfter fighting with the Hair Mouse of Despair, I needed a jump start that didn’t threaten to make me wet the bed.

As he does every Saturday, Austin presented a series of questions to get the brain cranking:

As usual, my answer was too long to use as a reply, so it’s now the number 420th  something blog entry I’ve written.

Has last night’s Think Tank post got you thinking that you’ve opened a philosophical Pandora’s Box? Do you find yourself thinking about the past and wondering if the decisions you made when you were just a kid have forever altered your path as an adult?   I don’t have to wonder about it. I’m living proof that (1) God is a practical joker and, (2) I continually keep Sheer Luck exhausted. That’s why he’s never around to help anyone else.

Was the foundation for my entire future laid by choices I made when I was young and foolish? Yes.

Is it possible that something I did on a whim as a teen has forever changed the course of my life? Am I paying now for the sins of my past? Yes and Yes.

Do we have free will? Are we forever moving ahead, uninfluenced on life’s path? Or has our route been predetermined? If I had made a different decision in my past, would my present be entirely different? Do the Fates exist? Is my life playing out according to a script that was completed even before I learned how to write scripts of my own? Life is like a set of dominoes placed upright to create a specific design. You and I are the dominoes that just didn’t want to fall right. God has to get back at us somehow.

When I made a choice at 20 to let someone back into my life, did I forever alter my future? If so, does it make sense to allow a lonely, horny, lovesick sick that much power over his future? Should a future be forever changed by choices made before I was old enough to legally drink? In my line of work, I’ve found that many quadriplegics were teenagers who dove into the shallow end of a pond, creek or pool. Rarely does life forgive those “hey y’all, watch this” moments. The fact you’re still alive and not dependent upon your ex-wife to help you potty, dress you, get you out of bed and feed you is a miracle you absolutely must give thanks for.

Isn’t it true that the decision I made at 17 as to which college to attend forever altered my destiny? How about that meeting with my high school guidance counselor at age 16 when I decided I wanted to go to Film school and learn how to be a screenwriter? Should I even go into all the stupid decisions I made in college? What if I had been more dedicated to my college internship? What if I had focused on directing instead of writing? What if I hadn’t let my future ex-wife back into my life? Rarely have I met a person who didn’t make a stupid decision in college, and rarely have I met a person who has anything kind to say about their guidance counselor. For example, my guidance counselor said, “You can be a housewife, secretary or nurse.” She walked out of the room and I took that opportunity to look at my case file where I discovered I was smarter than the average bored student. You should’ve heard her yell at me for looking at my own folder. You did the smart thing—you followed your dream. I, on the other hand, a woman who didn’t even know how to sort laundry, started out majoring in music.

I made all those decisions before I was 21, and didn’t they determine precisely where I would be at this very moment? Isn’t way too much of our future determined in the distant past? Does that make sense? What teenage has the foresight to realize that Choice A is going to eventually lead to Consequence Z? Life is like a bowl of alphabet soup. First you try to make sense of the letters, then you start searching for the ones that mean something to you. The letters you and I fished out from under the split peas, rotten tomatoes and corniness of life were “WRITE.”

Do we choose a career path too early in life? Yes. It’s because we listened to what everyone else said we should do.

Do you think we’d be better off doing a 4 year “Life Internship” after high school and before college? Would it make sense to spend those 4 years out in the real world, developing interests, making connections, exposing ourselves to what life has to offer before we settle on the major that influences our future?   DEFINITELY!!!! And in the past century, we’ve forgotten that once upon a time it used to be called “apprenticing.”

Do you have any doubt that college would have been a completely different experience had you undertaken it 4 years later? Would that extra time have meant a different future? Had I arrived at NYU 4 years later, would I have been surrounded by an entirely new group of people? Would I have chosen different classes? Would I have studied harder and applied myself better? Would I have ever met the woman I married? Don’t ‘should’ on yourself about it. You might have married someone worse. You know my past history–that state of serial monogamy called multiple marriages. You don’t have to ask me how I know it could have been worse.

Am I writing this blog post right now because I decided to hide from my miserable childhood by getting lost in writing stories? Had I chosen to do something about how unhappy I was back then, would I be a writer now? Maybe confronting my Evil Step Mother instead of cowering from her would’ve led to a life as a lawyer? It’s time to stop giving your step-mother that much power over you. Please believe that any misery you may have felt was sent back to her 3 fold. I was an evil step-mother once—inheriting 3 teenagers when I was 23 (and I was very mature for a 13 year old). Anything after that was a breeze. It made me appreciate my own children when they were teenagers, yet I’ve regretted deeply the mistakes I made when both my step-children and my children were under 18.

Had I not been so scared to speak to girls when I was younger, would I be happily married with an army of offspring today? Had I insisted on going to the local high school instead of being forced to go to the one on the Upper East Side, would I be living in Brooklyn and married to the girl I met at my first high school dance? If you were a charmer, you might have been a father at 16. I’m told that’s never any fun. You might have received a substandard education and not been admitted to the university of your choice. Yes, the roads you’ve traveled might have led you to different cities, but no matter where you go, all the baggage of life goes with you. I can tell you for a fact that the mistakes you’ve made might not have included the same people, but using different material without changing the pattern still fits as well—or as badly.

Did teenage Austin decide everything that happens to Modern Philosopher Austin? No. As an adult, you can decide to sell your house and move elsewhere, follow your dreams, or plan what course your life will take. You have a successful blog, with expectations for a successful career. Very few people have their work turned into a movie like you did—whether it was released or not. You have more life ahead of you than behind you. It’s up to you to decide what to do with it.