The other day I started back to my office after a meeting across campus. I came to an intersection where I could cross either of two ways and still make my way back to the office. I went with the green light. It was a slightly longer route, but I had extra time because the meeting had ended early. It was warm for Minneapolis in January, so I decided to make the most of it.
As I walked, I thought about an alternative reality where the lights had been different, and I’d taken the slightly shorter route. Instead of passing the alumni center and heading down the walk of scholars, I’d be going down Washington Ave., past coffee shops and restaurants.
Eventually the paths converge, and as I hit that convergence point, I imagined that alternative reality Kurtis being twenty-odd paces ahead of me, getting to the desk just a tad earlier. I wondered what could happen in that minute that might set me and that Kurtis on a different path for the rest of our lives; some random thing in a one-minute window that I’d miss because I took the longer route: a chance encounter with an old friend, a snow sweeper accident, a phone ringing in my cubicle with some extraordinary opportunity.
It’s like that when I decide what my next writing project will be, or how to take it, knowing that any decision might make the difference between fame and obscurity, an ALA honor or a “worst of” ranking on some snarky blog. I look to my friends and colleagues for green lights, but I guess the only thing I am really sure of is that I can’t stand there staring at the light trying to guess what might happen, or I wouldn’t get anywhere. I just keep walking, watching out for puddles and cars, hoping for the best. And if the weather is unusually pleasant that day, I enjoy the walk.