September 22nd, 2009

Roads not taken

Today a pleasant lady of about 60 approached the front counter at the bookstore and set down a stack of books on archaeology. "I'm an archaeologist," she explained, "and I have some kids I want to explain my job to."

I told her that I'd wanted to be an archaeologist up until I was 15, and she exclaimed, "I've had three back surgeries, and been hit by a back-hoe twice!" I told her that reading a horrific description of valley fever (apparently a serious problem for archaeologists) scared me off from the job forever. She nodded in enthusiastic agreement. She paid for her books, then as she left the store she called back to me, "You made the right choice!"

I'm sure we all occasionally wonder what our lives might have been like had we pursued a different path. When I was a kid, all my aptitude tests pointed towards a science career for me, and I was fascinated by the notion of unearthing the past...but then at fifteen I suddenly realized that the only thing I really wanted to do was write.

Fortunately I've never regretted taking that fork in the road (well, except that I wish I hadn't wasted a decade on screenwriting, maybe), but it was strangely satisfying to have that decision confirmed today by someone who could easily have been me.