Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Most people with any interest in writing are aware that writers play the “What if . . .” game. That’s where any situation or composite character rings some kind of bell inside our heads and we start to wonder What if some one did this or if they did that? What if a person like this did that? What if this happened and someone saw it? What if someone faced this situation? And we’re off and running---or more likely off researching or pounding our keyboards. However, that isn’t the kind of What if I’m thinking of right now.

I just had a scary moment. I wanted to pull up my draft for my Meridian column to sketch in another review. It wasn’t there, not in my document file, not on my desk top, and not in any other file on my computer. I crossed my fingers, stuck in a memory stick, and voila! There it was. I deleted a lot of no longer needed files earlier today on my computer and must have accidently removed that much needed file. Fortunately the frequent power outages we have here convinced me long ago to back up everything I write on an external drive. I hate to even contemplate the What if I hadn’t backed up that file.

This experience got me thinking about the other What ifs in my life and that poem by Robert Frost about making a life changing choice. What if I’d taken the other road? I know, we can never clearly see where the other path might have taken us, but sometimes I can’t help thinking of that other choice and wondering. That’s not to say that I regret the paths I chose; I just wonder where that other path would have led me.

In college I was offered an opportunity to write a script for the Patty Duke Show. I was busy, in love, and had a major role in the college production of Charlie’s Aunt. I didn’t write that script; I thought the opportunity would come again when I was better prepared. It didn’t. But what if I’d written that script and it had been used? There are times when I’ve wondered what difference it might have made.

A couple of years after I left journalism and gave up my job as a newspaper editor, I was offered a position as a foreign correspondent for a newspaper syndicate assigned to the Moscow, Russia bureau. I’ll admit, I was tempted, but I didn’t want to raise my children in Moscow. My husband would have had to give up his job. It didn’t seem to be the right choice for my family---or maybe I just wasn’t brave enough to tackle such a big challenge. A year or two later, the Berlin Wall came down, the USSR was broken into smaller states, and I wasn’t there to see it or to report it. Someone else wrote those stories that screamed their way around the world. I couldn’t help wondering, What if I’d accepted that challenge?

Right after I left the newspaper I got a call from the County Commission Chairman inviting me to serve on the Salt Palace Advisory Board. I was shocked and didn’t know how I could possibly say yes, but for some inexplicable reason I ended up agreeing. There were only two women on the board including me and a panel of some of the biggest names in business, arts, government, and religion in Utah. I met dozens of stars who performed at the Salt Palace, shared a parking space with Mark Eaton, shook hands with Marvin Jenson, strolled down a long hall with Ronald Reagan before he made a campaign appearance, handed Larry Miller a tissue, attended concerts, cheered at ball games, and took my children to ice shows and rodeos. One unforgettable moment was when Elder Ballard invited us to call him “Russ.” Serving on that board was a fantastic experience, but what if I’d said no. I know what I would have missed, but what would have happened in my life instead?

Sometimes indecision makes choices for us, some times we make poor choices, other times we choose the best of all roads. This holds true professionally and in our personal lives, but whatever choices we make Frost was right. The road we choose makes all the difference. Still like me, do you sometimes find yourself wondering What if . . ?


Nancy Campbell Allen said...

I do think about that, Jennie. I changed my major three times in college and I often wonder what would have happened had I stayed with one of those other ones.

Cheri J. Crane said...

I do this, too, Jennie. So many choices, so little time. =) Hopefully we'll have unlimited opportunities to try all kinds of wonderful things after mortal mode.