When I was a senior in high school, I had some decisions to make:
Where should I go to college? Do I stay close to home, or say bye to Mommy forever?
And forget Mommy, what about my girlfriend? We’ve been together for years—should we pick the same school? Can we try long distance? Should we try and go the distance?
And hey, what about the stuff I’ve been doing my entire life? Theater, improv, creative writing—I can’t just quit those things, can I? Or is it time to try something new? Is this officially the moment to find out who I’m really supposed to be?
I had no clue what to do about any of these dilemmas. Each decision freaked me out. Every choice was clearly about to alter the course of my destiny in a way that none before possibly could have. Sure, when you turn sixteen you get handed the keys to the car, but when you reach eighteen, you suddenly find yourself holding the keys to your own life—and it’s kind of impossible to drive when you can’t even see the road.
Plus, it wasn’t like I was the only one making these types of decisions. Every other senior at my school was also facing some kind of high-stakes, gut-check fork in the road. Whether it was the football player with a history of concussions deciding whether to play in the big game, or the overachiever with an ailing parent weighing whether she should leave her family behind, or the lifelong slacker with a super-secret crush and dwindling time to confess his love, all of these kids, and so many others—across the country, around the world—every single year, everyone has to peer over that ledge of uncertainty and stare down at that thorny, terrifying question:
What the hell am I supposed to do now?
Looking back on that time, almost ten years later to the day, I can see of course that the decisions I made during senior year led me right to where I’m at now—sometimes quite directly, often in bizarrely roundabout fashion. I can also see how the decisions of other seniors, some at my school and others thousands of miles away, would go on to dramatically impact my individual path, just as I would theirs. And while I can’t make some bold proclamation as to whether we truly are the authors of our own fates or whether we’re at the mercy of some fickle grander plan, I can definitely see that the decisions I made at the age of eighteen were simultaneously life defining and also completely arbitrary.
But as I look back on it all, there’s really just one question I can’t answer.
What if I’d made the opposite choice?
What if I’d stayed home for college? What if I’d taken a year off, or gone to another country? What if I’d dumped the girlfriend? What if we’d moved in together? What if I’d found a new passion, a new intellectual pursuit, one that changed the essence of who I am? What if I’d quit writing forever?
Now obviously I don’t have a time machine, or a portal into an alternate dimension, so I can’t exactly answer that question.
But I do have a pen. And a notebook. And a computer. And an overactive imagination.
So I decided to write about it.