I’m sure we all sometimes wonder what life would have been if we had made a different choice at a pivotal time.
I myself am currently floundering through life and its choices by not making any significant ones. I’m just doing what I enjoy doing in the hopes that opportunities will eventually present themselves. And if they never do then maybe I’ll have to make some sort of a change in what I’m doing, like get a bartending license.
I decided it would be pertinent to wonder about what life would have been if my goals and ambitions never changed since I was three years old, at which time I wanted to be a zookeeper, and not a writer. Here is what could have been:
Confident that I wanted to be a zookeeper since the age of three, my path was very certain and clear. The steps ahead of me were obvious. Go to college and get a degree in zoology. Then work.
In my elementary years I was self-assured and purposeful. I knew that I had a life dream and an achievable goal and so I had a particular confidence that I would have otherwise lacked. Because I had never given up my love of animals, I maintained a close relationship with my dog Jackie, and found that in learning how to commit to another living being I was able to navigate human relations much easier. I did not have a nervous tick with my finger that caused other children to make fun of me. I was simple and, for the most part, satisfied.
Middle school came and went. I never became too obsessed with The Lord of the Rings series. Escapism wasn’t important at that time. I did well in science, because this is where my passions were. I did not excel in English, but this seemed irrelevant because I would never need to articulate my feelings in the written word, and overall there seemed to be no money in English. I had the same close group of girl friends I did in my current-writer-life. However, instead of feeling awkward and out of place and unfashionable amongst these up and coming pre-teens I merged effortlessly with their pack. I wasn’t fat, because I did not have an emotional eating problem, not to mentioned I took Jackie on lots of walks and runs. I wore the right clothes, thus ensuring I would not suffer the life of a late bloomer.
After middle school was high school. Because I had survived the ranks of my girl group, when the time came I climbed slightly up the social ladder, instead of declining to the bottom. I was by no means the most popular or most sexy. This was never in the cards for me. However, well-intentioned and looking forward, I worked on my school work and achieved reasonable grades. I certainly did not get the As an awkward-future-writer version of myself might have gotten, because I had a social life that took some time, but I did manage to get solid Bs. The pressure was less, because my dream school was UCSD, and not Brown.
Indeed, In high school I did not associate with the awkward misfits, but nor the popular kids. I didn’t try to be in drama. I didn’t take AP English. I didn’t watch Conan O’Brien late at night, wishing I could be a part of the program in some way. I never went to Italy, because my life in Manhattan Beach was good enough. Consequently, I didn’t fall in love with New York, there were not enough animals and not enough sunshine.
I still liked animals, and expressed my love of animals with my love of science. I hung out with a reasonable group of girls with mild personalities who dressed nicely and did okay. I felt okay. I did okay. I had a boyfriend. It was mostly an arrangement of social status. We both fit in the same click and it seemed like an appropriate move for both of us to date, sort of like an arranged marriage, but without the commitment and with more making out and going to malls sometimes.
I got into UCSD, mostly because I was average and that was all the school asked of me. I did okay there. I found another group of tolerable friends who played things safe and did okay. The sort of kids who would be freaked out if you said “cunt” in casual conversation. I interned at the zoo once, just because I assume that is the sort of thing you could do. I did not meet Topher Grace at my internship, but instead had pictures of him on my wall.
I met a guy in college, who was kind and simple and sort of bland. Attractive but nice. Unaffected by things and didn’t think too much, but I found that okay and in line with my life goals. A simple life with modest things. I did not worry about being popular and well-liked, and therefore was. I did not dream in my head all day and wonder about what things could have been or what things would be like in the future. I did not stress about my neuroses because questions such as, “what am I doing with my life?” or “where the fuck is this leading to?” or “will I ever make it?” never occurred to me. I worried sometimes about grades, or sometimes about boys, but never about larger things like life purpose or self-identity or human connections. I didn’t worry about potential fame or success, these things seemed irrelevant. Life just was. It was okay. Life was especially average.
After college (I didn’t graduate a year early), the economy still being the piece of shit it is, did not offer me employment. Thus, I chose to live at home, which I am doing now anyway, and I volunteered at an animal shelter to keep myself occupied. In my free time I did not take improv classes or write blog entries, but instead babysat for extra cash and drove down to San Diego to visit my college boyfriend who I would probably end up marrying (and then later divorcing).
So would life have been better if I had maintained the interest I had in zookeeping when I was three years old? It’s difficult to say.