So, as there’s no new LOST episode tonight, I’d thought I’d muse on one of the major themes of this – and I suppose every – season. Choices and their consequences.
Some Spoilers Below
In this season, instead of flash-forwards or flash-backs, we’ve been watching the castaways in a separate “sideways” reality in which Flight 815 never crashed on the Island. In fact, it seems to be a reality in which the Island was blowed up real good by Juliet at some point in the 70s – and so everyone’s life has unfolded differently. Almost each epidsode, we’ve seen the Sideways characters looking in mirrors, as if they are unknowingly trying to glimpse their alternate selves.
This is actually an tried-and-true science fiction proposition: that different choices produce different timelines. That every time you choose one path, an alternate you – in LOST terms, a Sideways you – takes the other choice.
And so that got me thinking – what were the crossroads in my life that in which I made a choice, maybe one that shaped the course of my life and what would the outcome have been if I’d chosen differently?
Youth: When I was in grade school, I chose pretty early on to read all the science books in the school library – especially about astronomy and archaeology – as soon as I could. That love of science has literally shaped my life. What if I’d picked up a music book instead? What if I’d been more interested in sports than books? There’s part of me that thinks that I’d be unrecognizable to myself.
Teens: There were some pretty rotten kids in my neighborhood when I was growing up. There was one group that was older and into a lot of drinking and worse and I fell in with them for a bit while I was in a particularly rebellious period. One day they rolled up, looking to go out and “have some fun” – and for some reason, I got a really bad feeling. I declined. They belittled me and I never really hung out with them again – but, what if I’d gone with them? I don’t think that Sideways Steve had a very good path.
Early 20s: I chose to leave a good-paying job and go to graduate school. My parents were confused. Hadn’t I’d gone to college so that I could GET a good paying job? What’s does it mean to become a PhD? That move and ensuing long-distance relationship caused the break-up with the girl I thought I was going to marry and more than set the seeds of the man I am today through the experience of grad school. Who would I be if I hadn’t done that? Would I have married her? Had kids with her? Yowzer.
Late 20s: I had a very obvious “big” choice. After my post-doc, I had a career decision to make. One choice was to go work as a scientist at Abbott Labs in Chicago and start a life with Vickimort. The other was to take a job as a professor at the University of Maryland and maybe try the long distance thing again. I chose the Windy City. This is one that I think about a lot. What a different arc my career and life would have taken. I have to admit, that of all of them, I am most curious to see Sideways Professor Steve.
Late 30s: Saying “no mas” to Vickimort. A long time coming according to everyone that I knew, but when you’re on the inside it’s never so clear-cut. In leaving that relationship behind, I’d realized how much I’d closed away too many parts of myself. In the time that has followed, I found that I was really happy to have those parts back. I grew, enjoyed life and I found the real love of my life. If I’d continued to stay? That’s one Sideways Steve I feel sort of sorry for.
And from where I sit right now, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I am happy, healthy, am loved and give love. And so while I have a nerdy curiosity to see the lives of those Sideways “me”s, I can’t imagine trading places with any of them.
What have been the decision-points for you?