Every Christmas I watch A Christmas Story, and the original Miracle on 34th Street, because I want to, and It’s a Wonderful Life, because I can’t seem to avoid it. George Bailey learned the danger of getting a do-over.
Sometimes I think I’d take the risk. Sometimes, not.
Clarence showed George all the terrible things that would have happened if he hadn’t been born. But he didn’t show George all the wonderful things that would have happened if he’d left the Building and Loan behind and gone on that trip he’d saved for. Who knows what Wonderfuler Life he might have had?
When I find myself wishing I’d never ended up in this reddest of red states, and wonder what it would be like to live in a more liberal (and cooler! My god it’s hot in Alabama!) place, I have to remind myself that as much as it sucks here, if I hadn’t moved here I never would have met some people who have impacted my life greatly. I might never have gotten into storytelling, might never have gone back to school, would never have met my friends Bill, Janet, Kerry, Betty, Devere . . . but then I also don’t know what life changing friends I might have met in, say, Oregon, or California, or Vermont. Maybe my soul mate is in one of those places. I’ll never know. Is it worth never meeting Bill, Janet, Kerry, etcetera? Depends on how good looking the soul mate is.
One thing I don’t have to debate—given a chance for a do-over I’d never have gotten married. That means my daughter (and grandchildren) would have been born. Untold ripples would never occur. I’m willing to take that chance. I love my daughter more than I can say. I’m still willing to take that chance. Getting married was the single worst mistake of my life. Just about every other bad thing that’s happened to me can be traced back to that one decision.
Actually, it goes back further than that. I never should have gone to Eckerd College. I should have gone to one of the state universities. Then I never would have met S____. Not only would have not have gotten married, it’s unlikely I would have dropped out of school. I’d have gotten my degree thirty some years ago and be much better off today.
But at what cost? If I’d done that, I would never have joined the navy. Never have met N____. Never have had any of the life changing experiences in Okinawa or Camp Lejeune, or ended up in Alabama, with its pros and cons. But I’d be more financially set, maybe a successful writer….or maybe hit by a semi when I was crossing the street at age 30.
It doesn’t do to play What If.
That doesn’t stop me from playing it, though. When I do, I’m not usually as philosophical about it as I am right now. Usually it leads to remorse and regret. I find I have enough morse and gret the first time around and don’t need to repeat it.
Anyway, aren’t I doing Do-Overs all the time? “I never should have gotten married.” True enough. But didn’t I get divorced? “I never should have gone to Eckerd College.” “I never should have dropped out of school.” I can’t argue with that, but I’m back in school now, at UAB. God knows what I’ll do with my degree, and I’ll be ten years away from retirement when I get it, but by god, I’m going to get it.
I shouldn’t be in the reddest of red states. Perhaps not. And perhaps I can do that over, too.
In the meantime, I’ll take comfort knowing that even if I did get a do-over that’s no guarantee that the second chance will turn out any better than the first one. I don’t need Frank Capra to tell me that. Gene Roddenberry does it without giving me diabetes.