Thursday, October 07, 2004

My alternate life

Dennis G. Jerz describes his close encounter with an alternate life. It made me think about where I could have been. Or rather, where I at 18 realistically thought I would end.

At 18 I was a confused high-school student. In the week-ends I did my mother's cleaning job at the hospital, in the week I did the household chores. The summer I spent gutting salmon. With regular intervals I would have to look after my little sister while my father spent time at the hospital, and what I made in the summers would disappear for books and clothes and at times food when the adults were too busy surviving to remember that they still had two children living at home. In between this I struggled weakly to keep up at school.

My future was pretty clear to me. I would get a job cleaning or something similar, I'd marry a local man, have a couple of children, buy a little house in the area and split my energy between raising children, cleaning, looking after the house, garden and husband, and read trashy novels. On the coastal steamer some years ago I saw one of my old boyfriends and his family - a tired-looking wife with too much makeup and two stubborn, red-headed boys (just like himself). I pulled discretely further into the corner where I was seated and raised the book I was reading like a shield between the potentialities.

I have the house, kids and husband - and occasionally the trashy novels - but somebody else cleans my office, and the experiences I have through my work are way beyond anything I imagined. No, I don't ever want to go back. But I always make sure to be really polite towards people who do the kind of work I could have done, if I had not taken another turn at some point in the past. We could all have lived some alternate life - and not all alternatives are to be mourned.


Hjorthen said...
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Torill said...

It was terror! There's a lyric going something like this: "Nabolaget her er fullt av skrømt, jeg har'ke flytta herfra, jeg har rømt!" "This neighbourhood is filled with ghosts, I didn't move, I escaped!" That pretty much sums it up.

Francis S. said...

When I was 18, it seemed like anything was possible for me, the world was wide open. Oh, I had many moments of self-doubt and post-adolescent angst - the whole issue of sexuality was one of the biggest - but I don't think my 18-year-old self would be at all surprised at where I am at 43.

I can only imagine that my most extreme alternative self would be where I ended up as a father at 18 or 19 (it's actually quite amazing that that didn't happen, looking back on it), and divorced at 23, spending 18 years paying child support and still living in Chicago, working as a special education teacher or a social worker or something along those lines, with children already with their own university degrees by this point.

It doesn't make me shudder to contemplate, though.

Anonymous said...

It is strange what turns life can take, but in all honestly, you really don't know a whole lot about your ex-boyfriends wife nor her feelings. I find it a bit akward when people make such statements as you did, she looks tired, the kids looks like him... I mean, what are you trying to say? That she is in hell and you are not? That she got nowhere with her life and you did? She made a bad choice and you did not?

Who are we to judge these things... she might have had a bad day just like you probably do at times. Wouldn't it make you cringe if your husband's ex girlfriend saw you and blogged you?

By the way, red can be a beautiful hair color...

Torill said...

Anonymous - don't assume that I have not considered such things. No real persons were hurt in the writing of this post. So do I lie? Not about what I consider the important things.