I received Alice Kuipers book Me and Me as a Christmas gift. It has an intriguing premise. A seventeen-year-old girl named Larkin is in a situation where two people she knows and loves are drowning and she has to decide which one she will save. One is her boyfriend and the other a little girl she babysat. During the rest of the novel, the story flips back and forth between the two different outcomes. We see how Larkin’s life would have turned out had she saved the little girl and what would have happened had she saved her boyfriend. Her life is markedly different in each scenario.
Reading the novel made me think about times like that in my own life. Not nearly so dramatic as Larkin’s but decisions I made that would have totally changed the course of my life.
I remember when I was in college and I was thinking about whether I should become a teacher or a nurse and my Dad came to have supper with me in my college dining room. We went into this little lounge off the dining room after our meal to visit and I told Dad I wasn’t sure what my career should be teaching or nursing. And Dad told me he didn’t think I would make a good nurse. I should be a teacher. I remember at the time I was upset with him for saying I wouldn’t be suited for a career in nursing but his instincts clearly steered me in the right direction. I liked being a teacher and I think I was pretty good at it. I still sometimes speculate though about what would have happened if I hadn’t taken Dad’s blunt advice. What would my life have been like if I had been a nurse?
In 2004 we were getting ready to holiday in Phuket Thailand and we decided at the last minute to switch to a hotel high up on a cliff instead of the one right on the ocean where we had planned to stay. The one on the ocean was totally destroyed in the tsunami and many many people staying there died. What if we hadn’t changed our mind at the last minute?
What if I had decided at age 19 that I was too young to get married as many people told me? What if I had decided after three lost pregnancies that I just couldn’t try again? What if we hadn’t gone to Hong Kong to teach because just after we signed our contract SARS broke out and many people thought we were crazy to go?
In each case, if I had made an alternate decision my life probably would have been markedly different. Alice Kuiper’s book made me think about that.