"Day after day/Alone on a hill/The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still/But nobody wants to know him/They can see that he's just a fool/And he never gives an answer/But the fool on the hill/Sees the sun going down/And the eyes in his head/See the world spinning 'round."
"The Fool on the Hill" – The Beatles
Whenever one door opens, it's sure to follow that another one, somewhere, closes. For every split in the road, the road you didn’t take represents a whole new set of opportunities and outcomes that will never come to pass.
But just because they didn't come to pass, doesn't mean you can’t entertain them, consider what might have been, what would life be like had you zigged instead of zagged.
I'm there today, thinking on the what-ifs and could-have-beens. Let's start with my first real choice as an adult: joining the Marine Corps.
Following a brief summer job right out of high school as a delivery guy for the local pizza shop (that in itself is a whole 'nother story), lying in my bed on Christmas eve 1992 a stark thought struck me: if I don't get out of this town, I'm dead.
Now see, I didn't run afoul of the law or anger some loan shark or anything like that. I was running with a bad crowd; one of the guys, Keith, had been shot dead at another friend's house over some drug deal gone bad. Those were the people I was hanging out with. And the longer I was there, the deeper into things I was getting.
So as I lay there that Christmas Eve waiting for the remainder of the family to awaken, I knew it was time to go, and time to go big. Actually that's not really true. I'd love to say I joined the Marines because I wanted the challenge, because I felt the sense of honor and pride in being a devil-dog, or any of that television commercial stuff. Nope, I joined the Marines because the day I went down to the mall in Fairbanks, Alaska, to the recruiting station across from the old Fred Meyers department store off College Avenue, the Marine Corps recruiting office was the only one open.
"Sign me up and get me the hell out of here before I change my mind," I distinctly remember telling Staff Sgt. Erickson, the recruiter at the time.
This was the holiday season and obviously I'd caught Erickson at a not so opportune time. He wasn't in his service uniform or even his fatigues; nope, he was wearing a pair of sweat pants and a red USMC sweatshirt.