There are a thousand crossroads in life — one that leads to another that leads to another. Some come on dusty dirt roads trimmed with tumbleweed and scrub brush. Others at the meeting of multiple lanes that sort opposing traffic in calculated order. I think about the ones that landed me here, in this townhouse in the Bay Area.
Maybe it all started with that snow storm on a New Years day. The one that kept me in South Lake Tahoe a night longer than I was meant to be there. The night I talked the span of with a stranger.
I gave him my number. But the next day my phone was shut off due to nonpayment. When I started it up again I had a message from him with no number. In his voice I could hear tailings of defeat with the possibility that I had given him the wrong number. That could have been the end of it. He’ll never call again, I thought.
He called the next day.
After I returned to Montana, we talked for hours and hours and wrote pages to each other in emails and cards and packages. And so I crafted a resume and gathered up my small list of experiences to apply for jobs in California. I’ll take months to get a job. I thought.
I got a job offer the day before I graduated from college.
A month later, I moved to a little mining town in Northern California, close enough for monthly visits and far enough to make it long distance. It was hard and painful and fun and romantic and I resented the miles between us and him for letting them stay there the longer they did.
So he quit his job and moved close while he looked for a new job. But his offer came from one further away. “Don’t worry,” I told him. “I’m coming with you.”
I never did.
Instead we ended it on the phone. It was an ending that came all too easily for what the relationship was worth. “I hope you don’t end up with that guy,” he said on the night I broke it off.
I ended up with that guy.
And so it continued. A decision to stay. A decision to go. Certain turns that led to other intersections.
That brought me to an afternoon in a coffee shop and another job offer. The pay wasn’t what I’d hoped for. I probably won’t take the job, I thought.
I took the job.
I moved and changed my name and cut my hair and made new friends and joined a new church and healed from the heartbreaks I had collected. And then I took the trip that changed everything. I sat I the office of the man in charge if such life-changing trips and told him I wanted to work for him. He gets a lot of people who say that to him, he told me. For most, it’s too hard. They drift off and never follow through.
I followed through.
And so now I’m here, in a town I can’t really settle into but can’t really leave. I’m happy but discontent. Comfortably uncomfortable. Fulfilled but longing. It’s all the sum of a thousand decisions made at a thousand crossroads. And when I think of any of the other possible outcomes had I decided differently, I’m not sure I would have it any other way.