Paths Not Taken

I spent Saturday on the east coast of Florida. I made a quick stop in Miami’s South Beach to watch the sun come up:
Ocean Drive

After that I drove up to Palm Beach County to check out all of the places there that I used to live. I’d been over to that area exactly once since I’d lived there, but as I was driving through Alligator Alley it occurred to me that even that visit was probably over 15 years ago.

I saw the trailer park that was my first home in Florida. It was a lot smaller than I remembered. I visited a few parks & such where I spent my time as a kid, and they were all slightly familiar, but only slightly. The whole experience felt like I was walking through a setting for a story that I’d read; The names were familiar but I felt like I was seeing almost everything for the first time.

The real highlight for me was visiting the town of Boca Raton. I saw my old house & the houses where a lot of my old friends lived. I lived in Boca throughout middle school and Boca Raton High School was the first of many high schools that I would end up attending. I’d made good friends there and leaving was pretty tough. Unfortunately I never heard from any of them again.

Boca holds a special place in my memory. It stands out in my memory as one of the two happiest periods of my life. My stepfather was an ass and things weren’t necessarily easy, but I had a pretty stable life, lived in a nice house, had my Mom, my friends, and a future to look forward to. At the time I thought that I would graduate at that same high school and keep my friends until we all went our separate ways for college. Shortly into my freshman year, Mom and I moved into a trailer park in Delray before moving on to an efficiency motel in Daytona. That was the beginning of a very chaotic period in my life where friends were hard to come by and life was anything but stable. Dreams of a future in college were replaced by dreams of having an actual cooked dinner. I’ve only seen Boca Raton twice since.

Later in the night after driving around town and exploring I found myself sitting at a restaurant I’d never seen before, in a shopping area I’d never seen, off of a street that didn’t exist a few years ago, and found myself thinking “I went to high school here.” It all seemed so surreal, to feel a tie to a place that wasn’t familiar. I began to wonder what life would be like if I had been able to stay in Boca Raton. I wonder what kind of person I would be if I’d gone to just one high school instead of six, or if I’d been able to maintain relationships with my friends instead of learning how to expect all relationships to be short-term.  I guess in a way, Boca Raton doesn’t stand out in my mind as a “home” but rather as “the home that might have been.”

What would I be like?  It was an interesting little mental diversion. The answer lies in some alternate reality where a different path was chosen. It’s odd how every now and then, a decision can change the course of your life forever. I didn’t get to keep a stable life in Boca. No sense in crying over it. In truth things probably worked out for the best. Like I said, my stepfather was an ass. My Mom and I were better off without him. Also, Boca Raton (and nearby Palm Beach) can be an insular little place where people with too much money live in a little bubble of their own creation completely removed from the outside world. In several neighborhoods we drove through the only dark-skinned people I saw were the ones doing the landscaping and cleaning. I have to imagine that I’m much better off for having gone back to New York and lived among people from many different cultures, better off for having had the experiences I’ve had.

Sour grapes? Perhaps, but I can’t spend my days thinking about what might have been. That way madness lies.

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