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What If?

I was watching a video recently of a young man who was visited in a high school class by a representative from Harvard University to tell him that he had been admitted to their hallowed halls of education. Obviously it was a life changing moment for this person and he was overcome with happiness at the news which he had to share with his family immediately. It got me thinking about my own journey in life and I wondered what might have been.

I have always been pretty honest about things in my life, good and bad, based on decisions I made at the time. I absolutely believe that I made the best decision when I did based on what I knew at the time. I have never been one to say woulda, coulda, shoulda. Sometimes decisions were out of my hands but it is what it is anyway.

In any case, the video got me thinking about how would my life be different, or not, if I had gone down a different path along the way. (Let me say at this point that it is pretty scary to look back at decisions we make and see a different outcome if we had chosen something different so if you are easily frightened I would suggest that you avoid this type of introspection.) Obviously I'll never know what might have been, but it is easy to see some things that would have been different in my life.

Life through high school would not have changed since there were not any life changing options for me to make. I would still have the same core group of friends and experiences we shared through those years and that would not be any different so my life around them would be pretty much as it currently is and I'm thankful for that.

Where it gets to start winding around different paths is when I went to college. Had I applied myself just a wee bit more in high school I might have had other options than a quasi offer to attend the 257th ranked college in the country. Back in the day I was interested in a career in journalism and NIU was one of the top five journalism schools in the country at the time so this was a nice fit, even if they offered me a place there, then withdrew it, and then were forced to take me anyway.

I take full responsibility for my failed college career since I was more interested in the social aspects of being away from home then I was about getting good grades. I went to classes every day but I struggled with tests and my grades were not very good but that is another story for another time. I bounced between NIU, Harper Junior College, working at Polk Brothers, and back to NIU for four years.

The result is that I was kicked out twice in four years for poor grades and ended up never getting my degree. Since, at the time, I didn't really care because I was happily working for a radio station and realizing my dream coming true, I went forward with life. My first decision then was to not finish college. Back then it was starting to become important to employers that they hire people with a college degree, not crazy like it is today, but just getting started to be fairly important.

My next fateful decision was to accept a job, offered by a family friend, to go work for Spiegel catalog. Not having a degree was almost a deal breaker but because of his position in the company they waived having one and hired me. (Note: I picked out the accessories for the model to wear on this picture. The boots, gloves, earrings, and bracelet.) It was an exciting time at Spiegel as they were upgrading their product selection and we were going through massive changes. But, as would happen many other times in my life I got antsy for a new adventure and started looking for something else to do.

Hello consumer electronics industry! I left Spiegel and started, what would be my lifetime work, in sales for Panasonic, and then for the next thirty years, moved from company to company in that industry until I started my own business and eventually retired. This decision led me to be transferred to New Jersey, California, and back to Chicago. It was an interesting time as I was unemployed for some fairly long stretches along the way, sometimes due to my refusal to just go with the flow, and sometimes due to the industry eating their young as mergers and acquisitions led to jobs being eliminated.

Most of the choices in my life were made during this period. There are far too many to go over and I won't bore you with them but suffice it to say that my life could have taken hundreds of different paths. Ultimately I did what I did and that has led me to where I am today. Could things have been better? Possibly, but how could I ever know for sure. Am I happy to be where I am? Mostly. Do I have any regrets for the decisions I made along the way? None, I, rightly or wrongly, would make the same ones again based on what I knew at the time.

So, what would I have lost, or not known, if I had done something different?

First, I would have never met one of my best friends in life, Tom Barnicle. We met at Polk Brothers a lifetime and a half ago and have been friends ever since. I cannot imagine not having him around for all these years. Next, and even more importantly, I never would have met my wife of 45 years, Linda, had I not accepted the job offer to go work for Spiegel. That is where our paths crossed and I can't imagine not having her at my side for all these years.

Working in the consumer electronics industry has brought me multiple friends including three very close ones in Kent Dickerson, Mike Ross, and Bret Harvell. I met Kent and Mike at Panasonic and we are still friends. Bret and I worked together at Casio and became friends instantly. I of course have since become friends with their wives which is a wonderful bonus.

Moving around the country and back to Chicago led me to other friends outside of work. Our first neighbors in Manhattan Beach have been friends since 1984, Dave and Adriene Prosser. They introduced us to so many others that remain friends that I can't start to name them all but they know who they are. I also got to join a golf league while living out there called Pigbodies Golf Association which I then stole the idea and name, copyrighted it, and moved it to Chicago when I moved back there.

This led me to a whole new group of friends including my brother from another mother John Markiewicz and his wife Patti who are very dear friends still. So many others from the golf league have become friends over the years that I'm thankful for getting to know each of them.

Had I just gotten some better grades and maybe applied myself a little more I might have gone to a different college, gotten a better job, and would have been on a completely different path for my life. Would I be better off or happier? I can't imagine I would be because I would not have had all the important people and events I experienced because of them along the way.

Sometimes things happen for a reason and that includes decisions you make, or don't make, along the way but never the less life is still good because you would have missed so much had you done something different.

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