The narrowing path of possibility

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

Life can perhaps be measured by possibility. When I was an infant, the possibility must have seemed almost infinite. Every day I experienced something new even though my world was limited to crib and playpen. I just didn't know how limited it was.

My sweet spot of possibility was between the ages of 5 and 10. My parents told me that I could be anything I wanted to be, and I believed them. My possibility toggled between cowboy and third baseman for the Milwaukee Braves. Fame and fortune were almost certain.

But soon enough my world of possibility began to contract. I learned that cowboys weren't much in demand, and I had to acknowledge that I was afraid of the curveball. It slowly dawned on me that my family wasn't very rich, and that might restrict my possibilities. I was scared of girls and was kind of a nerd, so ladies man was out.

I was good at school, and I loved history, so writing a fresh take on the Civil War was a possibility, until I realized I was not very interested in footnoting. Footnotes are big in scholarly writing. That's why I write a column. I realized the possibility of becoming a lawyer, just not a high-powered one. My possible Supreme Court spot went poof when I didn't make law review, and then I eventually realized I didn't really like most of my clients or fellow lawyers, so massive legal success was probably out.

There is satisfaction in realizing possibility. I have a great wife and family, and lots of grandchildren. A few friends tolerate me.

But I got old, and now I have come to realize that my possibilities are becoming increasingly limited by my age, income, priorities and preferences. I won't be going on safari or see the Egyptian pyramids. I won't run another marathon. I won't own a purple Corvette. The path of possibility is narrowing.

But I will continue to study history and philosophy, play whiffle ball with my grandkids, golf with my sons, and dine with my friends. I just might go kayaking or snow-shoeing. There's a good chance I might go barging in France. I just might write another column on the achievement gap. Maybe I'll attend a grandchild's wedding. There remain a lot of possibilities, just not as many as there used to be.

But it makes me a little sad that so many possibilities along the way are now foreclosed to me. I do miss believing I had at least a small possibility of being a cowboy. That would have been awesome.

I will continue to enjoy my realized possibilities — and search for new ones forever.

Well. Not forever. Death is the only non-possibility. Alas, it is a certainty.

But there is the possibility that it might be a while before all possibility is extinguished. 

I sure hope so.

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