I almost joined the service. I was 18 years old. Fresh out of high school. I lived in Vegas with my family and I spent my time getting stoned and drunk. My old man, a retired Air Force sergeant, urged me to consider changing my ways. After a bad acid trip I decided to take that advice to heart.
The recruiter got me in quick. Within a couple of weeks I was on a bus to an induction center in the Arizona desert for processing. I, along with a bus load of recruits from all walks of life, went through a gamut of tests to insure we were healthy able-bodied young people for military service.
My process was halted when a doctor inquired about some childhood kidney surgery I had. “We need that medical record before we can proceed,” he announced.
So back on the bus I went, along with two other recruits who changed their minds when they found out that no, you can’t be helicoptor pilots just because you enlist.
As we waited for my records to emerge, it gave me time to rethink my decision. “Why do you want to train to be a killer?” asked one of my hippie friends while we passed a joint around. “You don’t want to serve the establishment do ya?” Whether it was the trace misgivings I was already feeling or the stupor of being high, by the next day I decided that no, the military life was not for me.
That was thirty years ago. I cannot imagine the course my life would have taken had I entered the Air Force. I will never know if I even had what it takes since I never made it to boot camp. One decision can change the course of an entire life.
I’ve been thinking about that decision and others like it a lot this past year. Other key decisions include my decision to move to Hong Kong where I ended up living for nearly seven years. The biggest decision of my life was marrying Jerry. That was 24 years ago. We have two teenagers and a settled down life in Portland. I cannot even imagine the course my life would have taken had I not said yes when he asked me to marry him that sultry day at Queen’s Pier.
What other big decisions lie ahead for me? Any more life changing ones? Sometimes I think the boldest decisions of my life are behind me and I begin to feel old. But I think that’s the ghost of midlife crisis trying to haunt me. I trust that I do have more, many more life altering decisions to make up ahead on the path.
Owning my story means owning the decisions I’ve made along the way for better or worse. It means not second-guessing what I determined in my twenties that now has outcomes for me in my forties. I have to accept where I’m at today and make the best of it. I cannot be stuck trying to reorder a past I can never live again.
Owning my story means to Live in the Present. I know that sounds like the Oprah’s brand of spirituality, yet there is wisdom to it.
Key decisions can change the course of a life. Accepting that course is to own the story we find ourselves in and keep moving forward while we live in the present. A paradox? Totally. But such is life, at least the life I’ve decided to live.
What have been some of your most life changing decisions?