Life Support: The road not taken

Sure I like my life, but who among us wouldn’t change a single thing?
October 21, 2004

By Thespine Kavoulakis

It was one of those activity-packed days when I had two children scheduled to be at three different places at the same time.  And from the looks of some of the other parents in the hallway outside this particular classroom, they were having the same kind of day.

The mother watching her 6-year-old twins play footsies and waiting for the game to turn into a full-fledged fight was particularly empathetic. “When I complain about the kids or my marriage, my husband reminds me that if I had a choice, I would do it all again and he knows it.”

“All of it?” I asked. “All the same?”

“Well,” she admitted, “not ALL the same.  I’d make a few little changes.”

And as I thought about it, I knew that I, too, if I had to do this all over again, would make a few little changes.  Well … actually, I’d make a few BIG changes…Umm…hmmm…OK…well…maybe I’d make A LOT of big changes.  And there you have it: with 20/20 hindsight, the next time around I would certainly know better than to take a few of the paths I have chosen.

I am not unhappy with my life, but knowing now what I did not know when I was twenty-something, I would make some serious alterations.

For instance, take those kids…in hindsight, I should have just adopted non-English-speaking 7-year-olds and never taught them English.  At least they would be old enough to use a bathroom neatly.

When I would tell them to pick up their socks off the back of the living room couches, they couldn’t call me “loser.”  And since they wouldn’t understand the phrase “collect all 10!” at the end of every fast food restaurant commercial, I would be a lot thinner.

I’d miss the cute infant and toddler years, but when I think about how many days of my life I spent in labor and delivery and how many people came to check if I was dilating, it’s a no-brainer: I’d adopt.

I’ve heard from friends who are divorced that they would like to marry again, maybe this time finding the ideal marriage that they have envisioned.  I’ve also heard from people who are widowed that they are happy having had their marriages, and probably wouldn’t marry again. Me?  One husband is enough for me already.  When I think about all the years we had fun dating, I know for a fact that the second time around, given a choice, there would be no husband, clear and simple.  But there would be a lot of dating.

Now that I think about it, when the husband came into the picture, the kids followed.  And the mortgage.  Hmm…no husband, no kids, no mortgage–no worries.

I would certainly live in a “cool” neighborhood without worrying about having a good school district.  Actually, I would have to live in a cool neighborhood if I wanted to do all that dating.

And homeownership?  No mortgage for me.  I don’t even want to own a set of silver-plated flatware with matching china, gravy boat and champagne flutes, let alone something that can’t be packed in a box with no lid.  I would surround myself only with things that brought me joy. And cookbooks.  But no science fiction.

I wouldn’t have to hide the department store credit card bills, and I wouldn’t have to be polite to other people’s spouses.  I would be a lousy role model and enjoy it.

And even though I would worry about things like STDs and serial killers, I certainly would not worry about skipping a shower or two until Monday. And I’d revel in my assurance that the toilet seat would always be there for me.

I would probably also make a different career choice, and then choose to spend my money on a sports car rather than a sedan with Scotch Guard on the crushed velvet upholstery.  And for sure I’d opt for a turbo.  If I adopted the non-English-speaking children, I would not allow them to eat, drink, chew gum or spit when they talked in the back seat.

In college I would study macroeconomics rather than Chaucer, and computer things rather than Spanish.  Not that Spanish wasn’t useful when my husband and I were lost in Italy on our honeymoon and had to find some words that sounded like they could have been Italian, but Italian would have helped more.  But I didn’t study that, I studied Spanish for six years.  Despite what they told me in high school, many people around the world do not speak Spanish, they speak English.  Unfortunately, the Chaucer didn’t help at all.  I learned that after much difficulty, even though I got an A in the class.

But throughout the years there were a few things I did right.  Even now, I congratulate myself on never having had Farrah Fawcett hair, and never owning gold lame’ pants.  And I skipped disco all together.  I’m also proud to say that I knew who Aerosmith was before “The Wild Thornberries Movie,” and I knew all the words to “I’m a Believer” before “Shrek.” I’m glad I learned the hustle, the macarena and the chicken dance, because they have served me well.  I don’t have to change those things because I got them right the first time.

The fact that I owned those “elephant leg” pants from the early ’70s doesn’t bode well for me, but then to balance it out I applied the lesson I learned 30 years ago and just passed on the recent (and almost identical) palazzo pants revival.  Fortunately, I also passed on the tattoo fad and never had any butterflies or unicorns tattooed at the base of my spine.  Eighty pounds and two epidurals later, I do not regret this decision in the least.

It just goes to show how much 20/20 hindsight is worth.

Well … almost.  Remember those shirts with the long, bell-shaped sleeves from the late ’60s?  The hippie-styled ones that made their comeback last year?  I bought one.  But the first time I wore it, the extra fabric of the right sleeve hung down and caught fire as I was cooking dinner.  And now I’m thinking that I need a pair of reading glasses for that 20/20 hindsight.