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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Dr. Strangelife Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Be Da Bomb

Today was that time of year again. I have this ring, see, and every six months, I have to take it to the jeweler and get it checked out so that the lifetime protection plan stays current. So at the end of every April and October, it's checkup time. Really, I've been meaning to sell the ring for over a year now, but a combination of reasons (diamonds don't depreciate, I won't get the retail value I paid for it, and I just never get around to it) keep me from doing so. But what, exactly, am I doing with a diamond ring in the first place?

What's the most reckless thing you've ever done? I'm not talking reckless in the legal sense; I mean it in the colloquial sense - doing something stupid without regard for the consequences. For some people, maybe it's having unprotected sex with a stranger or driving under the influence. Maybe it's getting into a fight you know you shouldn't have. A lot of times, I'm pretty sure of my answer to that question. In a completely emotional blur, I asked a girl to marry me.

At the time, I had plenty of reasons for doing it, but really, I think I did it just to show her that I would actually do it. I loved her (despite the fact that I had broken up with her two months prior), and I freaked out and somehow thought this was the only way to get her back - to do something this drastic. In my frantic mind, I was certain that I would follow through if she said yes. On the other hand, I was pretty sure she'd say no, and I was right. But what if she hadn't?

If my family and friends couldn't have talked me out of it, I suppose I would have ended up with a wife at age 22, although I think part of the reason I would have gone through with it would have been to prove to myself that I did the right thing. It's total nonsense in hindsight, akin to buying a Ferrari to show that you aren't wearing a Ferrari hat just to be cool. Regardless of whether I would be a divorce at age 24, though, I know for sure that I would not be where I am now. And I like where I am now.

I suppose I'd be in New Jersey, or somewhere near there. At the time, she had a post-college job waiting for her in North Jersey. I didn't have a job lined up yet; I probably would have just gone with her to Jersey and figured something out from there. Since I was looking for a job as a sportswriter, maybe I would have eventually lined up a job doing that or copy editing for a small paper. And two years later, there's a good chance I'd still be working the same job, unless somehow I got an early break and managed to get promoted, or get a similar job at a bigger paper. Or maybe I'd get the law school idea anyway, but I would have applied to Columbia, NYU, Rutgers, and Seton Hall, then probably have ended up at Seton Hall, since I know I couldn't have got into Columbia (and most likely NYU, too).

More importantly, I don't think I would be happy. Discounting the scant possibility that things between her and me would have somehow drastically improved, I'd be with someone with whom I'd broken up two months before getting engaged. And this was because, after nearly two and a half years, I'd come to realize that we just weren't fit for each other (this is benefited by hindsight, certainly). It's entirely possible that I would be divorced by now, or, more likely, stuck in a marriage that I would keep trying to "make work," because that's just what you do with bad marriages.

Well, I didn't get engaged. Instead I went home after I graduated, and I searched for a job while I thought of ways to get her back. Eventually that turned into searching for a job while I thought about moving on. Then I got a job at ESPN, a job researching sports and baseball in particular, and I really loved my job. I can't ever recall getting up in the morning and thinking, "I don't want to go to work today," and there were plenty of times when I paused just to reflect on the fact that I got to look up Barry Bonds's home runs per season, grouped by weight, while other people are stuck in cubicles crunching interest rates. But while I was at ESPN, I still worried about my ex - I saw her a few times while I was there, and I wondered whether I should or would get back together with her. Then law school came along, and I took the opportunity. I moved out to Los Angeles. I slowly stopped talking to my ex. I joined the UCLA hockey team. I made law review. And somewhere during the rains of the winter of 2005, I stopped caring about my ex.

Finals are around the corner; after that, a summer trip to Europe to study law. I'm too busy to have a girlfriend anyway, and in my free time, when I stop to think about it, I'm responsible only to myself. If I want to walk down to the bar and get a beer, I don't have to tell anyone where I'm going and when I'll return. If I want to apply for a four-week summer job in Alaska as a beer company brand representative, then I'll do it - and I did, without worrying what the girlfriend I don't have will do for four weeks while I'm watching bears outside Juneau. I'd be lying if every now and then I didn't think about the girlfriend I don't have and what I want her to be like - but for the first time in years, those thoughts don't concern my ex-girlfriend.

Today, I went to the mall and I took the ring to get cleaned up and checked out. I wasn't the least bit emotional, not like previous times when I've taken the ring in and the woman said things like, "She must be missing this," or "This looks like it hasn't been worn." This time, I even had some responses ready in case she tried a line like that; unfortunately, I didn't get to use them. It was an errand, like any other, I had to get a ring checked and that was that. I drove to the mall with the sunroof open, listening to country music; I browsed in Lids and bought a smoothie on my way out.

I like my life. I like it a lot more than the life I think I'd have right now if that "no" had been a "yes."


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