“Destiny is no matter of chance. It’s a matter of choice…” – William Jennings Bryan
The tree that is your life has many branches breaking off in various directions. Sometimes, it seems there is no reasoning behind which way the branches go, but on you climb, wondering what the view will be like from the next one.
Looking back on you life, you may see that many of the branches travelled were linked at one specific point in time where one choice, however minor, could have altered your present drastically. For me, that choice involved a fifty dollar orientation fee at Iowa State University.
In order to save money on college, the first two years of my post-secondary education came from Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, IA, known as the perennial community college basketball national champions, and the alma mater of Tom Arnold. I’m not kidding on either of those tidbits. In fact, there is a copper bust of Tom in the Arnold Net Center, home to the Warriors volleyball squad.
Nearing graduation, and never having considered that one would actually leave the state to go to college, I looked at colleges in Iowa. I was interested in Art at the time. I hoped to be a motion picture animator. However, I had seen the writing on the wall when Toy Story was released. I had also recently taken a video production class and had written a scene of a screenplay.
Thinking a film career might be the way to go, I applied at Iowa State University and The University of Iowa. I was accepted to both. Being that you ar
e here and likely know that I am a writer, you might think I chose the University of Iowa. Nay, for I had been accepted to Iowa State University first, and had already sent I a fifty dollar orientation fee. I was not going to let that fifty dollars go to waste.
I entered in to Iowa State University as a Journalism major with a focus in Electronic Media Studies. To this day, I know that with my interests and talents, The University of Iowa may have been the better, definitely more logical choice, but fate does not deal in logic.
I could never question fate. If I had not been at Iowa State University, there are a few things that would have been different. Predominantly, I would not have met my ex-wife. If I had not met her, I would not have moved to Kansas to follow her, and I would not have my son, nor my day job, which has allowed me to provide for him.
Sometimes, I wonder where I would be right now. I would not trade my son, nor the friends I have made on this life limb, but it is interesting to think where I might have been.
Hollywood? I’m not suggesting that I would be a big star at this point, a gun for hire, crafting screenplays for the stars, but I would have likely taken a chance and moved at some point, probably working as a peon somewhere. I would just as likely be teaching English in some random United States high school. None of that sounds bad to me. They are perfectly acceptable alternate realities.
Ultimately, I like the place I am, and the journey it has taken me on. I would not be the writer I am today without it. I would be a writer, yes, but one with a different skill set, more importantly a different experience set.
It strikes me that perhaps the limb is not as important as the roots. It isn’t where I ended up, or the choices I made along the way that matter. It is the person I am beneath all of it, the man my parents raised.
If you were to cut in to my trunk, you would find many rings, more than I would like to think as the years continue to pass by without slowing in the slightest. You would see the years when things were dry and survival was all that could be mustered, and then the years that were rich in growth and development. You would see scars were I was damaged, but continued to grow anyway.
Most important, you would see that my roots are strong, strengthened by family and friends, a blue-collar upbringing, and faith that no matter the choices, I will always survive.
All the fifty dollar orientation fees in the world might be able to change my role in life, but they could never change the man playing that role. The roots were too strong.