How’s Your Sideways Self Doing?

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?

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33 thoughts on “How’s Your Sideways Self Doing?

  1. I was thinking about this the other day – probably because I've been reading The Dark Tower. But also because there was a story here recently where a group of boys had been drinking and decided to drive, one of them said he'd drive, crashed, one boy killed. Father of killed boy goes around to driving boys home and stabs his mother to death as revenge. Also stabs brother and father. Driving boy now in jail for crashing and killing boy. So I was thinking how if he hadn't decided to drive, if one of the other boys had said he'd drive, how all that would have happened to someone else. Or if the boy who was killed had been driving, it all would have been different. lol, depressing, involved story sorry, but you know, one decision really can change your life.

  2. I was thinking about this the other day – probably because I've been reading The Dark Tower. But also because there was a story here recently where a group of boys had been drinking and decided to drive, one of them said he'd drive, crashed, one boy killed. Father of killed boy goes around to driving boys home and stabs his mother to death as revenge. Also stabs brother and father. Driving boy now in jail for crashing and killing boy. So I was thinking how if he hadn't decided to drive, if one of the other boys had said he'd drive, how all that would have happened to someone else. Or if the boy who was killed had been driving, it all would have been different. lol, depressing, involved story sorry, but you know, one decision really can change your life.

  3. 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?I think about that from time to time. While some of those alternate choices certainly would have produced interesting lives, I'm very happy with where I am now and, therefore, would make the same choices if I had to do it all over again. Even though some of those choices took me to some really icky places.

  4. What a great post. Your path led you to the right place ultimately, I'm envious of your life. You have certainly earned your happiness with all those choices!
    My biggest decision point was when I chose the degree in biology instead of veterinary school. That was a hard choice. More interestingly the most horrid jobs I held always yielded some small thing without which I can't imagine my life now; the juvenille opposum I rehabbed (brought into a corrupt vet clinic); adopting Ives when I worked at the MSPCA.

  5. Fabulous post. I'm sure glad you chose the path you did so that I got to meet you and the Beloved. Sometimes I think about what I'd be like and where I would be had I not gone to Boston for grad school. I am truly a different person than I was before I left — more secure, less scared, more bold, more passionate. I am so glad I made that choice!

  6. Great post! I think there are a couple of turning points for me:
    1. Breaking up with my high school sweetheart in college (we were so wrong for each other). I probably would have ended up divorced eventually if we had gotten married like I thought we would before I had the freedom to find myself in college.
    2. Leaving my safe job at a credit union for a job as a secondary marketer in a mortgage company (one of the evil ones who made subprime loans). I hated that job sooo much that it made me realize that I needed to be in a non-financial career. I'm not ruthless enough to make it in that industry, and the safe credit union job was BORING.

  7. Oh, I loved this post. An interesting topic made even better by the very interesting life you've led. Love love love it. :DI think LOST has had me thinking about these things, too. Actually I was just thinking the other day how without fail, people seem to say they wouldn't change a thing about their past, that they know they're where they're supposed to be. It always leaves me thinking–really? Part of me agrees with it, and part of me believes it's just what we have to tell ourselves because hey, it's too late, and you might as well make the most of what you have.Okay, didn't mean to turn this into a semi-pessimistic comment. But I'm definitely going to have to give this some thought now. :)

  8. A very deep and thought provoking post. I was curious to see what your choices had been and how you felt about them. It seems that you are happy with where you have ended up. That is wonderful….to be able to look back and think you made the right choices.I have regrets…things I wish I had not done…immature choices…missed opportunities. That sort of thing. Hopefully, I learned from these things. I have more paths that I wish I had not taken than you mention in your musings. Sure, these poor choices made me who I am today, but perhaps I could have become more confident, healthier, more outgoing if I had made different choices. Of course, I will never now but there are several choices that I made that I would love to have a do-over!

  9. Fascinating!! And funny, because I just finished a somewhat related post about my childhood dreams. This is definitely inspiring me to post. (Finally getting back into the Vox swing of things!). For the record, I like today's Steve. :)

  10. I really enjoyed reading this. I get to see inside your head, which is an interesting, kind and intelligent one. I heard someone say once in a film something I like: "there are no good or bad choices, just choices" (within reason). I think this applies to many things in life. You obviosuly made the ones that would bring you to this point of contentment. I remember when you lost your job and instead of whinging about it and curling up and hiding out, you turned it into something positive.

  11. Excellent post, Steve! I think I might try to make a blog post out of this too – finally, something to write about! :)
    From a purely science fiction angle, if every choice we make gives us our "real" life and our "alternate" life from that point forward, by the time you've lived several years, you've got quite a tree going there. Kind of mind-boggling to think of all the possibilities.

  12. It's funny, years ago, I really would've regretted many of the decisions I made in life, but considering they all led me to where I am (and who I am) today. I'm glad I did. And I'm glad you are who you are! And I'm glad I made the decision to ditch old Diaryland to move to Vox, because there are so many people (you included) I never would've known! Great post!

  13. Cat — that makes me think of that point when I was a young teen and decided NOT to get in the car with those boys that were clearly going to get into trouble. It seems like such a small thing, but I can remember that day as if it was yesterday.

  14. QofB — I know! I know that all those experiences — good and bad — have made me who I am today. And so, I wouldn't necessarily want to re-live a lot of them, but I'm glad they got me where I am today.

  15. Cori — ain't life grand? I'm like you — that time in grad school — for as little money I had and for as much work as I did was really formative for me. I'm SO glad I did that.

  16. Thanks Bookish! Were any of us really "good" with our high school sweethearts? I just think the person you are at 18 is no where near the person you are at, say 25. The chances of two young people navigating those changes and STILL being in love? I suppose it happens, but seems pretty rare.

  17. That's so true — I mean, I would like to think that "Still With Vickimort" Steve would sense that there was something missing in his life. And that doesn't lead to "regret" per se, but hopefully to action to make his life better.

  18. Thanks FS — I think those choices of youth — made (or not-made) very impulsively stay with our adult selves for a long time — if I'd known then, what I know now — right?

  19. Thanks B! I very much agree with the sentiment that there are no good or bad choices. I mean there are obvious moral right/wrongs, but when it comes to the should i take this job? should I date this person? etc I completely agree with that.

  20. Thanks Mello! Definitely go for the post — more food for thought is always good! And yes, the old sci-fi proposition is that there are an infinite number of possible realities!

  21. Thanks Mello! Definitely go for the post — more food for thought is always good! And yes, the old sci-fi proposition is that there are an infinite number of possible realities!

  22. You are absolutely right, Steve. And being the type of person that I am, where I tend to beat myself up over any mistake I make, I find that my mind will go back and resurrect some teenage foolish thing I did and before I know it, I am back in that time period (in my mind) reliving the shame. There should be a statute of limitations on how long our minds recall past mistakes. Of course, as soon as I clue in to what I am doing, I turn my thoughts in a different direction.

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