Nov 11, 2016

Alternate History

When I consider my life so far, I have to say the most significant decision I made was to go to Chuuk as a student missionary during the 1994-1995 school year.  That single decision changed the entire trajectory of my life.  This becomes abundantly clear when I ask this question:

What if I hadn't gone to Chuuk?

If I  hadn't gone to Chuuk I would likely not be a teacher today.  When I took the mission call to teach 5th grade for ten months at Chuuk SDA School, I had no interest in teaching as a career.  I was going to be a missionary--teaching was just the vehicle.  I was a psychology major and if I hadn't gone to Chuuk there's  no reason to think I wouldn't have continued on that path. I would have graduated with a BS in psychology in the spring of 1996, and probably gone straight into graduate school.  Presuming that everything went according to plan, I would have finished my PhD in the early 2000s and would probably be some kind of a therapist or counselor today.  Dr. Sean Maycock, clinical psychologist. It has a nice ring to it.  But I don't know if I really would have stayed with it, and if I had, I don't know if I would have been happy doing it.  I was never really passionate about the field.

My first classroom

If I hadn't gone to Chuuk, I would probably never have met or married the love of my life, Barbara Leen.  And of course I would not have my two boys Elijah and Ezra.  Imagining that What if makes me sad.  I met Barbara through Chuuk even though she never set foot in that part of Micronesia. Her good friend and roommate when I met her was Kristina Brown.  Kristina and I had become close friends while we were both serving on Chuuk and I would never have met Babs if I hadn't been there. I probably wouldn't have met Barbara in any other context because we didn't run in the same circles at Andrews.  She's three years older than me and had just graduated with her Bachelors degree when I was heading off to the mission field.

 I'm sure I would have gotten married, just because statistically most people do and I guess I'm the marrying kind.  Right before I went to Chuuk there were a couple of friendships that might have had the potential to develop into something more.  There was a rather romantic moment with a girl I'd been hanging out with a lot right before school let out for the summer in the spring of 1994.  I wrote a poem for her, and there was an unexpected kiss and then I drove away the next day, and spent the next few months pining for her.  She would have still been at Andrews if I had returned that fall but I can't honestly say that the kiss really portended anything serious.  I also met a girl in Florida that summer--a cute redhead going to school at the University of Florida. We hit it off quite quickly.  She wrote to me a few times the first few months I was in Chuuk but then we fell out of touch.  Would we have continued to stay in touch if I had stayed in the States? I have my doubts, and because we didn't share the same faith commitment, I don't think I would have found we had a lot in common.  The truth is I never experienced the instant, deep, and lasting connection I had with Barbara with any of the young women I knew prior to my year in Chuuk, so if I hadn't gone to Chuuk, I can only guess that my wife would have been someone I had yet to meet.

I owe this girl my wife! Kristina Brown relaxing on Sabbath afternoon up at Xavier High School in Chuuk, Late 1995

If I hadn't gone to Chuuk, I wouldn't have gone to Saipan and I most likely wouldn't be living in Ohio today. Barbara is my connection to the Buckeye State and without her, I don't know where I would have ended up.  Would I have stayed in Michigan where I went to school? Maybe moved to the Chicago area?  Or would I have ended up returning to Florida?  I can only guess that I would have ended up living near my wife's family, wherever that turned out to be.

If I hadn't gone to Chuuk, I can't say that I'd be as close to my friend J as I am today.  I'd like to think that our friendship would have remained strong regardless, and indeed it might have.  But there's something to be said for the power of proximity in sustaining friendship.  His parents moved to Ohio the same year I started dating Barbara so I often saw him when I was visiting her folks during our vacations.  Then we were both in Micronesia at the same time. We were in Saipan, while he was in back in Chuuk and then in Guam.  When he and Evelyn relocated to the States, they moved to Columbus to be near his parents.  And we moved to the same city for the same reason back in 2009.  For a few years we lived a mere 20 minutes apart and were able to get together on a weekly basis.  The Carlos family has been in the Chicago area for the past 5 years, but by  now I think the foundation for a lifelong friendship has long been cemented.  But without Chuuk, this fortitutous chain of coincidences might not have happened and our friendship might not be what it is today. (And this is not even considering that we spent that year in Chuuk together, and those shared adventures are crucial part of our bond).

J and I attempting to multi-task.  Grading papers and playing Risk at the same time, with our friend and fellow SM the inimitable Big Will Hawthorne.

If I hadn't gone to Chuuk, I'm not sure what my spiritual life would be like. I did experience something of a spiritual renaissance in the spring of 1994, but I wonder if it would have lasted without the refining fire of that incredible year in Chuuk--a year I often describe as the hardest and best year of my life.  In Chuuk I learned what it really meant to rely on God.  I never felt more alive than I did out there, way out of my depth, encountering the most incredible situations.  To this day, I  still can't quite believe some of the preposterous things that went on out there.  I could write a book, and indeed someday I think I will.  He sustained me every step of the way out there and I grew to love Him through it all.  The relationship I have with God today was forged in Chuuk.

What if. . .It's an interesting exercise,but I am glad for the way that my life has turned out.  I feel that my life has been incredibly rich, and I wouldn't trade it for an alternate version.

"Had to walk the rocks to see the mountain view, looking back, I see the lead of love."
                                                         -Cademon's Call

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