What I Might Have Been

Every November I need to get my car serviced and inspected. It’s a pain in the ass, but state law requires a vehicle inspection once a year, and unfortunately mine is due at the start of winter, right before the holidays. So despite the pressure on me by our consumer culture to exhaust every extra dollar I have buying stuff for the people I love this time of year, I have to pony up my cash to get my 2012 Honda Civic street legal and race ready.

Fortunately, I have a great automotive service center that I have been going to for years now. Not only do they do a amazing job at a reasonable price, but they’re located right down the street from where I work, so anytime my car needs service, I simply drop it off in the morning and walk what amounts to be a little less than a mile or so to my office.

I enjoy walking, and I’m always one to take the longest route whenever I can in order to get the most out of it. It’s not uncommon for me to go off on some detour, just to see where it ends up. Even on vacation, my wife and I have been known to start walking looking for coffee shop, and three hours and a few miles later, we wind up drinking margaritas at a bar instead. After all, if you walk a long way, it’s always good to have a few drinks to help make the walk back a little more enjoyable.

But When I walk from the auto shop to my office I’m always pressed for time, so I have to take the most direct route, even though I’m tempted to wander off down some of the many scenic roads and parks I walk past. I’ll look down some of theses side streets and walkways, but I have to get to my “real job”, and I never take the time to explore.

One of these pleasant distractions is right by a busy intersection that I have to cross. It’s a hectic area with heavy traffic, so despite my rebellious nature, I’ll always use the walk signals on the traffic light rather than attempt to jay walk or run across the street against the signal. This time of day, the roads are full of people who are in a rush to get to the jobs they hate, and crossing against the light will turn you into a speed bump for sure, so rather than add to the road kill that litters the highway, I press the big red button and wait until it’s safe to cross.

Right next to this intersection though, is a tiny park, adorned with flowers, rocks and sculptures. Honestly, it may be closer to a garden than a park. But whatever you want to call it, It looks tranquil and while I wait for the little guy in the walk sign to light up, I’ll look into it, curious as to what it is and why it’s there.

The inviting gravel path that drew me in from the busy intersection.

It’s a very small area, maybe the size of a house lot. So small in fact that for the longest while I thought it was private property, so I’d typically walk passed it, not wanting to trespass. It did dawn on me eventually that it was meant for the public to enjoy, but still, I’d always keep going…. in a rush to get to a job I can’t stand and get another day behind me.

Another day behind me? That’s crazy! For a guy in his 50s who apparently is obsessed with the fact that his time is running out, getting another day behind me is the wrong way to look at life.

But that’s what I do. That’s what a lot of us do. We just keep trudging through the days, week after week, year after year, Trying to reach This magical time That we’ve romanticized in our minds, when we can retire and finally begin to enjoy life. All the while never realizing that the best years of our lives are passing us by.

Until one morning, before I pushed the button to cross the road, I stopped. I looked into the park and instead of walking by, I turned and stepped down the granite steps onto the gravel path of this relaxing, quiet spot.

I’m not sure what it was that drew me in this time, or what was different from the hundred other times I walked past this place. Maybe it was the brilliance of the trees in full foliage color, or just that I had passed it too many times without going in, but something drew me in. Curiosity got the best of me, and as soon as I stepped into the park, I felt an instant sense of calm. This was a bit surprising since there were dozens of cars speeding through the intersection only a few yards away. Still, I would challenge anyone to enter this space and not feel the same way.

I couldn’t help but wonder who would take the time to create such a wonderful little spot for total strangers to stop and enjoy. I didn’t have to wonder very long though, for at the base of the steps was a rock with a plaque attached to it that read:

“There is an ancient aesthetic long revered in Japanese culture known as the WABI Sabi which celebrates beauty in the quirky, flawed, imperfections of the world around us…

…Join me in appreciating and being amused by inspiration park, growing in beauty in the middle of a busy intersection it is a lovely example. -Judie Kehl”

This decorative, and rather informational rock helps explain the concept of “Wabi -Sabi”, in welcomes visitors to this special place.

I don’t know who Judie Kehl is, but I really would like to thank her for this for this wonderful space, where one can experience the sense of peace while being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of every day life. She had created a gift for me, and any other passer by who was lucky enough to stumble on this tranquil and beautiful place.

I strolled through the small lot, smiling at the sculptures and enjoying the brightness of the leaves on this rather dismal day. But then, as I rounded the corner, I came upon what I believe was truly the thing that called me into this park ( if you believe in this type of thing)…

On the path, by entrance, (or exit depending on which way you came in) was another stone with a plaque on it that read:

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

These words hit me hard, and almost made my heart skip a beat.

Not too long before this, I had decided to give up writing because of the bad experience I had with a stupid online writing program. The episode had crushed my ambition and my self doubt had convinced me that I was wasting my time trying to become a writer. As my depression grew, I also decided that the concept of a 53 year old man trying to get in shape and writing a blog about it, was also a foolish idea. So I gave up on all of it.

I quit.

But now this

I’m not a spiritual person, and I don’t necessarily believe that we age guided to anything by anything. But it was pretty weird how I was drawn to this stone…in this park.. on this day… when my creative spirit had been crushed only a few weeks before.

It didn’t call me to action right away, in fact I have been thinking about this for a few weeks. But it has finally occurred to me that George Eliot is right. It’s not too late. I can’t let outside negativity affect me to the point that I stop doing something I enjoy, and also something that I was once very passionate about.

It’s not too late. it’s never too late.

As long as you have the desire and a clear purpose, you can pick up where you left off, begin again, or flat out start something new…right now! No matter how many times you’ve failed, given up, or doubted you could ever do it in the first place. The choice is ours and ours alone. We create the lives we want through our beliefs, our decisions and our determination.

So I ask you, what is it that you might have been?

Take this for what it’s worth,but I have a renewed determination to follow this calling of mine through to the end, whatever that may be. It is my goal to prove that we can change the course of our lives, no matter how old we are, that it’s never too late to try new things and we don’t have to just grow old, retire, get sick and die.

It’s time to start Attacking the Filthy Fifties again!

It is never too late for me to be what I might have been… at least not until the next rock this is written on is my head stone.


  1. Welcome back…did you know that (if this is the same author who wrote The Mill on the Floss) George Elliot is a woman. A talented writer. You can do this. Mom Speak


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