I’ve always wanted to be my own best friend, so I would never be alone. Still, I assumed it was some bizarre internet glitch.
But it wasn’t. It was actually another person named Randall Dunn, a boy who looked much like I did at age ten. I thought about the “Twilight Zone” episode in which a woman sees herself – same coat and hair and face – getting onto a bus outside some diner. She later learns that she has spotted a doppelganger, her exact double from a parallel universe.
Seeing a mirror image of yourself makes you consider the direction you’ve taken in life. That can make you happy about the decisions you’ve made, or make you run away screaming. Especially if you see a more innocent version of yourself, before you made all those really bad choices. Where could you have taken your life by simply choosing something better?
One fateful night, Larry determines that he would have succeeded in life if he had only accomplished one thing: catching that fly ball to win the game for his high school baseball team. Instead, he dropped the ball on that fateful day, dropping all of his future hopes with it. For the rest of his life, he remained a loser – the guy who had lost the game all those years ago.
A mysterious bartender named Mike (Michael Caine) discusses Larry’s problem, and – unbeknownst to Larry – grants him his wish. When Larry leaves the bar and heads home, his wife, Ellen (Linda Hamilton), refuses to let him in. The next morning, he returns to the drudgery of his job. But everyone now treats him with respect, awe, and a little bit of fear. Larry soon learns that everyone thinks he’s the company president.
He eventually discovers that his life story has been altered. In this alternate reality, he actually did catch that baseball and win for his team. As a result, everyone – including Larry – started viewing him differently: as a success.
Thrilled, Larry finds that he now lives in a mansion filled with expensive sportscars, champagne, and his wife, Cindy Jo (Rene Russo), the most sought-after girl from his high school. All his dreams have come true in a single night!
A few months after I graduated college, I applied for an acting/modeling job. (I was not always fat.) The recruiters liked my face and wanted to add my name to a list of models for jeans and other clothes at nearby stores. They would pay for my flights whenever they sent me to an exhibition in California or elsewhere, and such jobs often led to other job opportunities for acting. But they warned that I would have to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice, because they might call me in the middle of the week and would need me to fly me out the next day.
I was really intrigued, but I couldn’t accept their terms. I had no job, but I had just agreed to start directing weekly dramas for my church, so I couldn’t be “on call” for them. Of course, I could have simply backed out of the drama ministry. We had a small church and I had only directed a few dramas, so it wouldn’t make much difference to stop doing something that we had only started a month before. But I didn’t feel right about breaking my promise to my pastor and my church.
Over the years, I’ve often wondered what would have happened if I had said “yes”, and actually become a model and Hollywood actor. I might have become rich and famous, and instead of blogging to you now, I would be giving a TV interview about my latest film role. Or promoting my new line of health care products or salad dressing with my face on the cover.
But I said “no”, so I don’t know what I might have gained by choosing that path. I can only tell you what I would have lost.
I would have lost the drama ministry at my church that helped me improve my writing and changed a lot of people’s lives.
I wouldn’t have been there for my brother, Robert, at a time when he needed my help, which resulted in him joining our church and working with me in the drama ministry. The same church and drama ministry that his girlfriend, Laura, later joined. The same church they were married in.
I wouldn’t have found a different job, through which I met my best friend, Thom Reese. We wouldn’t have gotten together time and time again to discuss our writing plans and goals, along with other dreams for our families and our faith.
I wouldn’t have learned about the Write-to-Publish Conference in Wheaton, Illinois, to which I commuted nearly every summer, learning most of what I know about writing and publishing.
I wouldn’t have learned how to be a good husband and father. It’s hard to learn that when you’re surrounded by people who live in the fast lane of luxury, feeling constant pressure to compromise their principles. It was much easier to learn it as part of a small church, in close proximity with people who strived to honor God and bless their families. As one of the few singles in the church, I got to observe families working through marital struggles and figuring out how to raise their kids before having to learn it through my own experiences. Through the church, I learned how real families stay strong.
I wouldn’t have met my wife. I might have married someone else and been rich, but we wouldn’t have laughed together as much as Nicki and I do. I might have married some supermodel, but I doubt her face would light up with the same love and joy that Nicki has when she’s hugging me or holding our daughter. I might have even found a woman who wanted to adopt a child, but that child would not have been as clever, funny or frighteningly energetic as Abby.
In “Mr. Destiny”, it doesn’t take long for Larry to discover the downside of his new “dream” life. His closest friends now avoid him whenever possible. When he does talk with them, they’re stunned and edgy, expecting him to threaten their jobs.
Not only has Larry become the boss, he’s become a cold-hearted boss.
His former wife, Ellen, another company employee, has been actively campaigning against Larry and his ruthless corporate strategies. When Larry realizes how much Ellen loathes him, he seeks her out, only to find that she wants nothing to do with him.
Larry finally realizes that he was better off with his old life. He didn’t have the fastest cars or the biggest mansion or the most alluring wife. But he could still respect the person he saw in the mirror.
My family and I have struggled over the years. There are things that I wish I hadn’t done. Choices I wish I hadn’t made. Circumstances I would rather have avoided.
But there’s one choice I don’t regret making. One temptation I don’t regret walking away from. I’m glad I chose to stick around and live a simpler life, rather than devote my life to glitz and glamour. At the time, all I had was a small church and a simple commitment to help start a drama ministry. I had no idea it would result in more wisdom, more friendships, more writing experience, and a beautiful family.
No matter how I got here, I really like the place that I’m in right now.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
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Thursday, December 31st, 2009