Thursday, August 22, 2013


We all make choices, each of which determines the outcome of who we are today.

Sometimes, we reflect on the choices we've made and we think, am I on the right path? Did I make the right decision?

Every so often, I think about the options I've had over my lifetime and I imagine where I would be now if I hadn't made the choices I've made, if I had made other choices, selected the other option.

Would I have been happy taking that other path?

In my first year in journalism school, I learned a lot about reporting, I had honed my writing skills, and to one of my teachers, I had showed a lot of promise as an up-and-coming journalist. My core-course teacher told me that I approached stories from fresh angles and would write the news in a way that was not only informative, it was enjoyable to read.

I came up with some twisted titles to my stories, but that's another blog post.

When he approached me, towards the end of my first year, and told me about a job opportunity as a reporter with the Edmonton Journal, I was taken aback.

"But I still have a year and a half before I graduate," I told him, "I'm not ready."

"You're ready," he said. He asked me to think about it, to give him an answer in a couple of days.

I signed up for journalism school, not to become a reporter but to improve my writing and storytelling skills. I wanted to be a novelist, preferred fiction to the tales of the real world, though I now know that sometimes truth is far stranger.

Sometimes, I'm not as fearful of failure as I am of success. I can often be crippled by the anxiety of doing well, only to wonder if I can be better the next time around. As a reporter, if I were to write a really good piece for the paper, would my editors expect the next story to top it?

I've been a technical writer for 14 years, and I'm never expected to make my documentation more spectacular the next time. I must write with the same voice and with as little creativity as possible.

And it bores the hell out of me.

Ultimately, I told my teacher that I wanted to stay with the journalism program. I had many reasons for my decision: I felt that I still had so much to learn; I wasn't ready to leave Ottawa; I wasn't interested in living in Edmonton. I had hopes of writing for The Ottawa Citizen or, if that didn't pan out, of working somewhere more exciting than a western-Canadian town: maybe New York, or Toronto, or Washington, or Montreal.

But what would have happened to me if I had taken that job at the Edmonton Journal? What if I moved out west, had done well, and lived as a successful reporter?

Perhaps I would have liked Edmonton (I had never been there before, still haven't been there to this day), would have met someone and settled down.

Maybe, I would have done well and would have moved onward and upward, would have become a foreign correspondent. I might have been sent to parts of the world where I could witness the hardships of war, famine, disasters, and unrest first-hand, only to bring these stories to Canadians.

I wonder, sometimes: would I have married and had kids, or would I have been a lone creature?

Would I have been happier?

There is no telling where I would be and what I would be doing. If life has taught me one thing, it is that things can change so quickly.

When I was in my first year of journalism school, I was a borderline alcoholic. I drank almost everyday and would drink until I was either drunk or until I had a healthy (unhealthy, really) buzz. I would wake up hungover almost every morning. The culture of the reporter, in my day, was one of alcohol.

If I had followed the journalism path, would I be a full-fledged alcoholic by now? Would I be in rehab? Would I even be alive?

No, there's no point in trying to imagine where I would be. There are too many variables, too many unknown factors. But I do know what wouldn't have happened, had I taken up the offer and had moved to Edmonton in 1986.

I would have never taken my internship at The Ottawa Citizen, where I wrote for the Entertainment department and met some Canadian celebrities and icons. Though my editor was an asshole who treated me like garbage, it was a valuable experience and helped me develop my creative style of journalism.

I never would have worked at The Low Down to Hull and Back News, my first paying gig as a journalist. While it paid little and I was constantly butting heads with the owner (who passed away just recently), working at that weekly paper did teach me that I had to go out and find my stories, that one wouldn't always land on my lap.

That paper also afforded me the opportunity to grab my camera and explore the Wakefield area, or, as the title of the newspaper suggested, from Low, down to Hull, and back. I'm pretty sure that working for a larger paper, I would not be responsible for the photos, and so my camera would not always be with me.

Although I may have met Lori at some point, there's a good chance that we would have never dated, simply because our circle of friends would not have had as many opportunities to intersect.

Without Lori, I wouldn't have the wonderful kids that I have. I may have had other kids, and I would not doubt love them as much as my girls. This goes without saying, but I'm incredibly grateful for those girls. I couldn't imagine a world without them.

Also, because Lori and I never would have married, Korea would never have happened. It was because she had studied teaching English as a second language and had worked as an ESL teacher in Ottawa that the opportunity to teach in South Korea had arisen.

No Korea, no Songsaengnim. Goodbye, too, to the wonderful people I met there, especially the ones I still hold dear.

I'm sure that I would have discovered blogging: I did that without Lori. But there would not have been a Brownfoot Journal, may never have been The Brown Knowser (another blog, perhaps, but Lori suggested the title).

I would not have many of the fabulous friends that I have, either by being with Lori or by remaining in Ottawa. I might have discovered some of the long-distance folks that I have encountered through LinkedIn or Twitter, but contemplating all of the scenarios for them would be kind of crazy.

But this is, however, one of those "what-if" posts. It's silly.

Still, it gets me thinking about the choices I've made in life. And I have no regrets.

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