Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Caution: Prom Can Alter Your Destiny!

 He'll dress in a charcoal gray Calvin Klein tux.  He'll put a wristlet on his sweetheart.  He'll smile for a million and one photos.  He'll stay out all night at an After-Prom party hosted by his high school.  He'll dance and laugh and eat and, yes, he'll probably even smooch his girl.  He'll do everything that all other juniors do to enjoy and experience prom...as I did.  But for the last 25 years, (ugh...really--a quarter of a century?) prom meant more to me than its pomp and pageantry.   For 25 years, I have always equated prom to questions and quandaries, to mistakes and miscommunication, to poor choices and paths.

Paths.  So many are available to us when we are young and the world is open.  Author, Steven Redhead, once said "The paths we choose will make us what we are.  There are endless opportunities for change and to alter our course or path through life.  A split second decision can change the course of your life completely, forever."   Paths.  Life's paths--discussed in books and movies alike.  Who could forget Gwenyth Paltrow in that thought provoking existential film, "Sliding Doors?" (If you haven't seen it, stop reading RIGHT NOW and click on your Netfllix icon and order that baby tout suite!  It is a must see!)  In it, Helen, the protagonist, lives two lives simultaneously.  One in which she jumps on a subway home just in time.  The other, in which, she misses the subway.  Fate, destiny, chance and choice intertwine as Helen's two lives unfold.  The audience takes part in a "what if" compare and contrast game that is both thought-provoking and entertaining.

Dr. Phil calls these paths "turning points;" moments in our lives when we clearly had choices and those choices directed our destinies in unexpected ways.  He claims that when thinking back most middle aged humans can pinpoint at least 6 of these occurrences in which we traveled down a figurative road when there were oodles of other streets we ALSO could have taken.

For me, when I mine my messy, sometimes maniacal memories, the first turning point, (perhaps the ROOT of all other turning points, ) happened 25 years ago on prom night.  The choice of course was due, in part, to a boy...(after all, what OTHER pressing issues do teenage girls pay attention to?)  It was also made out of spite and feelings of rejection and unwant.  The path taken was clouded by teen angst and heartbreak and the utter DRAMA of being a girl.  But no matter the reasons (so clearly seen today as a 41 year old,) the choice was made...to date a boy that I'd never even noticed or remotely liked-all in the hopes of making another boy jealous.  I am not sure that I ever got the response I wanted from that boy, but the world kept turning and my stubbornness made me trudge down that brambly path I had chosen come Hell or high water.

Sounds like regret doesn't it?  Funny thing there is so much I DON'T regret about that infamous prom path. But that's the thing about choices--they send you down a road that can be full of craters, but also brimming with gorgeous scenery and stops that you wouldn't change for the world.  You see, I ended up marrying that "revenge choice" a few years later.  And while THAT was no picnic, the two sons that came out of that marriage were, I am sure, the reasons for the prom path.  If I hadn't made that choice, I wouldn't have them.  They wouldn't exist.  And while I lament them and their choices quite often here on this blog, I can say with the utmost assurance that life without those two little guys would be empty.  Furthermore, who I am today is in part due to the craters that tripped me up down that particular road.  While traveling that path I learned that I was strong and resilient.  I grew to be self-sufficient.  I learned what is was that I did and did not want out of life.  To put it mildly, I am a different and much more evolved human because I took a path that wasn't necessarily the best one to choose.  So it leaves me questioning?  If it molds and shapes who we are, can there ever REALLY be a poor choice or a bad life path to saunter down?

And so...and so...after journeying down this existential road with you dear Mudders, what can we take from it so that we can impart some wisdom to the children we so love and adore?  Well, we could tell them that choices no matter good or bad, smart or dumb, whether conscious or unconscious will shape their lives in ways that they could never foresee.  We can also teach them that choices will present themselves whether significant or slight all the days of their lives, and when they can, they should try and be present and aware of the possible outcomes when making decisions.  But perhaps most importantly, dear Mudders,  we should let them know that making choices, choosing paths takes forethought and insight, and that with any choice comes a chance for growth and developing a sort of stamina necessary to take us down the next path.