One Day Changed Everything

Pinpoint a moment in your past where you had to make a big decision. Write about that other alternate life that could have unfolded.

I still remember the day I left.

It was 2002, early January. Friday afternoon. The dorm was as quiet as it ever got on a Friday, and I was alone, for once; it should have been perfect. Quiet and solitude were rare, and I craved both. Fiercely. Yet here I was alone in a quiet room and I couldn’t just relax and enjoy it. A year ago, I might have been able to. Six months ago. But not now. Now, the term had just started. Class had been in session for only a few days. And I was already wondering how on earth I’d make it through the next week—let alone an entire semester. And then another semester. And then two more years.

Get out of here! said a voice in my mind. Get out of this GET OUT NOW WHILE THERE’S STILL TIME…

That thought had crossed my mind a few times before. But lately it had taken on a new level of urgency. As usual, I took a deep breath and tried to ignore it. I sat down at my desk and started reviewing a list of assignments for the term. In my depression-addled state of mind, it looked simply overwhelming. And the thought came to me that all of it was just never going to end… the lectures; the papers; the exams (and thousands in financial aid riding on every single f*cking assignment); the hallway politics; the constant bickering with the girls in the next room; the endless pretending that everything was fine when really, some days it was all I could do just to get out of bed. …It was just not going to stop. Not ever.

I stared at that calendar of assignments with rising panic. And the thought persisted. Get out! Now! GET OUT GET OUT NOW—I couldn’t stop thinking it.

And then, a new thought hit me: If you go RIGHT NOW, RIGHT THIS MINUTE, you’d probably get home before rush-hour traffic gets too bad.

So I did. I left a note for my roommate saying I’d gone home and I’d see her on Sunday night, loaded a pile of laundry and CDs and schoolwork into my car, and drove off. I kept saying to myself I was just leaving for the weekend. But I knew in my heart that wasn’t true. I couldn’t stay there; and I couldn’t pretend otherwise any longer.

It started to sink in on the highway. OMG, I’m really doing this. I’m really leaving. I can’t believe I’m really doing this! What would my roommate think of my just up and taking off like that? What would the rest of my friends think? What would my parents think? What would I DO if I dropped out of college? What would I do instead? Where would I go? What the fuck am I doing right now?!

Those questions were terrifying. My entire future had changed in one afternoon. But I also felt like a huge weight had been lifted. The idea of not having to deal with school anymore—it felt wonderful.

That’s when I knew I couldn’t go back.

Now, ten-plus years on (really??!!), I do wonder what might have been if I’d stayed. I’d have my BS degree. I might have a job I actually like, instead of this one. I might have gotten my MLS. But, on the other hand… I’d never have taken my full-time library job if I’d stayed at school. So I might not have discovered how much I enjoyed library work. And I definitely would never have taken the accounting job I have now—which means that I never would have met my husband. (We met at this company.) I wouldn’t have my marriage or my house or the life I’ve built. The alternate life that could have unfolded? I wonder about it. But I’m glad for the life I have.

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