Sitting in Small World Coffee across the street from Princeton University, I'm hoping some of these folks' smart genes will wear off on me. Sipping a decaf latte and eating a cardamon and ginger scone I can't help but play "What If...".
Let me describe the "What If..." game, created in the swamps of Florida in 2003/2004. I was working as an environmental biologist. I worked on a team writing, reviewing, and monitoring Land Management Plans for environmental law compliance. Our clients included Kennedy Space Center, the Orlando International Airport, FL Dept. of Transportation. We would squirt toothpaste around our ankles and wrists and then duct tape our long sleeved clothing and pants to our gloves and boots. Donned in mosquito netting and DEET sprayed liberally on our clothing we walked into the swamps cutting our way through the wetlands with a machete in order to count the variety of grasses within a randomly selected sample site. We also would identify and count birds, reptiles and various other species we came across. Often we were thigh-deep in water with the musk of water moccasins filling the air and alligator eyes watching our every move. Then the "What If's..." would start.
I went something like this ... What if I attended the University of Montana instead of San Jose State University, where would I be? Then I would continue this made-up story to describe my life had I made that decision. It might go something like this: My undergaduate work would have been in big animals. I would have obtained my pilots license and led a study of Brown Bears, flying to remote locations in the Alaskan Wilderness.
It was a simple game, but it kept our minds free as we waded through water and cut through vegetation. Mostly, it kept our minds on something else other than the amazing amount of insects attacking our bodies.
I can't help but sit here today across from Princeton and play "What If...". If you ask my dad he would tell you I am a prominant attorney that graduated from an Ivy League University. What if I had done just that? What if I attended Princeton University? Where would I be today? Likely I would not be living in Truckee, California. Maybe I never would have been diagnosed with cancer. Or, if I was diagnosed with cancer, maybe I would have started a not-for-profit legal aid organization for those with cancer to help fight the injustices of the medical insurance system and the workplace horror stories I've heard over the years.
The trouble with the "What If..." game is that we do not live our lives in reverse. We only have this moment and we can only move forward from this moment.
So, this morning I will feed the parknig meter and take a walk through the Princeton University campus. I will snap a few photos. I will visit an dear friend. And as the day comes to an end, I will get back on the plane to fly home.
Today I will cherish this moment and for a minute "attend" Princeton, before I move boldly forward into my life.