Chris Dooley

The other day I was at home and I decided to look at some old stuff of mine from years gone by.  One of the things I found was my old memory book from senior year in high school. In the pages of the book,  a lot of good memories came back to me. I had lyrics from songs that was popular then, pictures with all my friends and a lot of signatures from people wishing me well.  

     One thing that stuck out to me in particular was the pages where we talked about where we saw ourselves in years down the road.  One of the questions asked where I thought I'd be in ten years. My answer was surprising to say the least. I stated that I thought I'd be a college graduate, married and have a family.

     Well it turns out that my life took a different turn than how I figured it'd go.  I went to college but never finished, mostly because of my own foolishness. Back when I was enrolled in classes, I didn't take it as seriously as I should've and didn't do as well as I could have done.  It's one of the biggest regrets of my life that I let such an opportunity slip through my fingers.

     I've never been engaged, let alone married.  Relationships have always been a sore subject for me.  I've never had much luck with them. I've been in a few serious relationships over the years, but for one reason or another, they didn't work out.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't envious of the happiness that I see other people have. Most of the people I grew up and went to school with, they're all married and have kids now.  I've sat in the back of churches and watched in happiness as people I know made life long vows to each other and married. But at the same time, I wished for the same as myself. I wanted the goosebumps of standing in front of all my friends and family waiting on my bride.  I wanted to hear the tin cans dragging behind us as we drove off into the sunset while everyone cheered us on.

     I wanted that feeling of knowing that I was going to spend the rest of my life with someone who wasn't going to leave.  Most of my dating life I've felt expendable, like a cog in the wheel. I've always been afraid to completely open up to someone because of that, because of the fear of losing them.  But that feeling of having my partner for life, who wasn't going anywhere and was going to be with me forever? That would be amazing. I wanted that feeling of finding out I was going to be a father for the first time.  I wanted all of the doctor appointments that followed, building the nursery and holding the baby in my arms for the first time. Right now, those things feel a million miles away.

     All of that stuff led me to closing the memory book up and putting it back in the closet where I got it from.  It seemed like that short trip down memory road made me think about life the entire rest of the day.

     My life might not have turned out the way that I thought it'd go, but it didn't mean that it was any less valuable to me.  I have lived an extraordinary life filled with blessings way beyond the 34 years I've lived. I've traveled the world and seen a lot of different places.  I've been on a ferry in New York watching the waves splash as we viewed the Statue of Liberty. I've sunk my toes into the beach at Fort Meyers and felt the tide splash softly up on my feet.  I've stood out on a pier over the ocean and felt the warm gulf breeze blow across my face. I've got to volunteer my time to a number of different projects to try to help near and far.

     I've handed out commodities to a struggling community for Christmas.  I've got to send canned goods and non-perishable items to Dollywood when Tennessee was burning a couple of years ago.  I've had the honor and privilege to become a regular columnist for this newspaper you're holding in your hands. I thought when I started this side project, I'd just do a couple and see how it went.  But the response has been overwhelming. I'm going on a year now of writing columns and it's been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. I've gave people struggling a glimpse of hope. I've given love to people who were hurting.  I've tried to give a voice to the voiceless, just to remind them that they're not alone.

     I know my life could turn upside down at any moment.  God could see fit to send me the girl I've been waiting on my whole life in the next week.  No, I don't have the degrees or family that I thought I'd have by now. However, I do have several jewels in my crown that money can't buy.  I know my story isn't finished, so I have to stop trying to write my own ending. I'm going to turn loose of the pen and hand it over to God, so he can finish what he started!  Amen.


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