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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

What if...

Posted on March 14, 2011 at 10:42 AM

When looking back on life’s decisions, it’s easy to picture all of those seemingly little choices as dominoes that all managed to end up lining-up in the grand master plan that has slowly toppled down one after another to end up at wherever you are right now.  And it’s hard NOT to play the “What if...?” game, wondering how your life might be now if you had made some seemingly minor or different decision earlier. What if one of those dominoes wasn’t there to fall and not down the rest, but rather knocked down leading towards some other path. Where would it have lead...? And not the fanciful what ifs of “What if...I’d been born a Jedi” or “What if...I went back in time and bought every share of Coke, Apple and Facebook stock and now made Bill Gates and Warren Buffett call me Big Daddy?” or “What if...I found an HTC Evo that could grant up to three wishes even if one of those wishes was to turn itself into an iPhone.” No, I’m talking about the REAL what ifs. The simple, very real, talked to Becky Frodsham level what ifs where your life could have realistically taken a major turn or change. Where you turned left instead of right. Or said yes instead of no, or maybe NO instead of yes.


I thought I’d share six major “What if...” moments in my life; six events that could be playing themselves out for some other alternate universe Sciacca... I’m leaving out stuff like rounding that corner a few seconds earlier and totally avoiding that major accident; or a few seconds later where I becomes a heard on collision instead of just rolling over into a ditch. These are things that I had some control over that don’t end up in me dead but just down a different path... I’m listing them in chronological order since, well, the way temporal changes work, if one of the earlier ones changed, then the ones following would likely never have existed.


1. The one where I go to school.

Going to college seems pretty expected of everyone these days, so it usually comes as a surprise to people – and often quickly followed by a semi-apologetic, “Well, no, that’s OK.” – when I tell them that I didn’t go on to pursue higher education. This is really a pretty major one because, well, at the time that I graduated high school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but thought that I wanted to pursue the laser-focused career path of…business. I’m not sure what that would have meant. My dad worked for a bank. My brother works for a bank. Would I be suiting it up every day and going in to run some middle-management position at a bank now? Looking at my diplomas on the wall and doing things like leading workshops and directing workflow and approving memos and spouting terms like “increasing remote synergy” and “interoffice politicking”? Maybe. Would I be happy? Doubt it. This is the “what if” that haunted me for a lot of years, but now I realize that there it no “John went to college” what if that makes me any better off than I am right now. I’m happy where I am – *really* happy. My family is outstanding, I like my job, I get to mostly set my schedule, and the writing is going well. I can’t see an alterverse where having a piece of parchment is going to make me or my current situation any better off or one iota any happier today. Also, let’s just say that young John spent a year or two pursuing business and then he woke up miserable one morning, likely with a Meister Brau headache, and declared, “Holy crap! I hate business! Hate, hate hate it! All this math and statistics! It’s awful, just awful! I’m a creative type. Let’s switch to some kind of arts degree and do something fun!” And I wound my way over to a journalism class. Would I have ended up right here where I am now? Don’t know. But I doubt it. I think that part of my “success” with the writing has been an open voice and honest style that I think a journalism degree might have professional-ed and Harvard comma’d and nut graf’d and inverse pyramid-ed that right out of me. (That sentence alone would never ever have been allowed to exist. I know. A bleak future, right?) Or maybe I’d be working for a PR firm churning out soulless product releases and dry-as-Saltine white papers. Or maybe I’d be the creative behind some awesome TV show, brought in to punch up dialog, or working alongside fellow Acalanes class of ’88 alum, Will Forte, on the next MacGruber story…


2. The one where Polo hires me.

After high-school, my dad moved our family to a pinprick sized town in North Carolina called Rutherfordton. I hated it. I was miserable and definitely not hanging in there, little kitten. So I got a job picking up balls at a golf course for a golf pro named Bud Grant. (You can read some of Bud’s awesome words of wisdom – Bud-isms – here...) So the day that I go in for the job interview with Bud I basically say, “Look, I’ll do a good job for you while I’m here, but I have no interest in doing this for a long time and I’m looking for something else and as soon as I find it, I’m gonna quit.” Despite my charm – or perhaps because of it – Bud hired me. And started me on my path towards a career in the golf business. But shortly after taken this job, I applied and interviewed for a job at a Polo Factory Outlet store. I loved Polo clothing, I’d worked in retail before and this seemed like a perfect fit. I had it all planned out. I was going to move near the store, buy a condo, and start a life on my own. This future definitely ends my journey in the golf business. Meaning I never work with the Secret Service and write a story about it that gets published. Do I eventually wind my way back to California and burn out on fashion the way I did on golf, still stumble across Dana and STILL end up back here pursuing A/V? Or am I now the store manager of some Polo outlet store somewhere, struggling to be the lone hetero male voice in the fashion world?


3.The one where I don’t meet Dana.

Of all the “What ifs” this is the one that changes my present the most...and for the worst. But, it’s actually pretty easy to imagine a “What if...?” where I DON’T meet Dana. Of all the fragile, delicate-ness of what is and what could have been, my meeting Dana was a string of unlikely random events that happened to all come together in one impossible moment. Her grandmother married someone that went to my bible study group. She came out to visit her grandmother. I met her at a religious service on the very last day of her weeklong visit to California. She was on vacation; she could have not gone. It was my day off; I could have not gone. I could have gone but not crossed her path in the parking lot. Or I could have seen her, but not talked to her. Or she could have blown off my attempt at humor by insulting her home state. Or she – most likely of all judging on the long list of broken hearts in her wake – could have been with some other boy. Maybe I would have seen her again as she came out to visit her grandmother, but likely she would have had another boy by then. Or what if she already had plans for that night and instead of a magical first evening of talking and talking and talking – followed by me getting her address and then writing and writing and writing – what if instead of all that we had only a brief 3 minute chat in a parking lot that never amounted to more than a quick witty repartee? Without Dana I likely end up with some California girl and am probably still living in California. Do I get into audio? Do I get into writing? Do I have some other version of awesome Lauryn? Don’t even want to know.


4. The one where I make the putt.

Before I embraced the exciting career of custom installations, I was in the golf business. And part of becoming a golf pro is passing a Playing Ability Test. (I wrote a lengthy post on my PAT experience, and how golf made me a better man for the struggle.) Well, I took that test a number of times – 9; look I was never a great player and the test was a real struggle – before ultimately passing, but on like try number 4 I had a very real opportunity to pass it. It all came down to a three-foot putt on the final hole. Make it, pass; miss it, fail. And I missed. And by missing, I missed a deadline that would have made it much easier – and faster – to obtain my full PGA Class A license. I make that putt, I’m definitely going to the second PGA business school. I’m passing that school (I had one of the top 5 scores in the class from the first one, so I’m pretty sure I’d have at least pulled a pass) and then I’m getting my PGA card. And then...? Am I still in the golf business now? Am I working as a club pro somewhere, shooting the breeze with the members and giving lessons and playing until dark? Am I different now because I didn’t need to take that test 5 more times, gutting it out and learning that I CAN do anything that I want to because I made so much more easily? God I hope not.


5. The one where Rob Sabin never calls back.

I mentioned before how I got into this writing thing; I cold called an editor at Home Theater magazine – Rob Sabin, who has now come BACK to Home Theater mag as their recently appointed Editor in Chief. I told you this industry was a wheel that just goes round and round... -- and left him a voicemail. I had an idea about reviewing Dolby Digital Laserdiscs. It was one of those flash-of-brilliance ideas that hit me while I was in the shower; no one was talking about the great sound on these AC-3 encoded discs. I got out, I looked up his number, I called and I left him a message. Then a couple of days later he called me back and I eventually started writing. And when Rob moved from Home Theater to Sound & Vision he suggested me for a new spot and The Custom Installer was born. But, if Rob doesn’t call me back, then what? Do I call someone else? Maybe. But at this point I’d written exactly one pay-for-publication piece so it wasn’t like I was a real commodity and there were a finite number of pubs that would be interested in my idea. But beyond whether I would still write or not, there was a certain timing involved in Rob calling back that set the rest of the dominoes in place. With Rob calling back, I wrote a couple of stories for him at a time when I was looking for a job in the industry, and being able to say, “I’ve been published in a Home Theater magazine” was a giant door opener for someone who had no industry experience whatsoever. Would I have still gotten job offers in this biz without that foot in the door? Also, shortly after this, Rob moved to Sound & Vision and they were interested in starting some coverage of custom installs. Rob gave then EiC Bob Ankosko my name and that started my long path with S&V. If that train leaves the station without me, then I am probably writing only the very occasional feature if at all. That’s why I say that Rob gave me my start in this whole business and respectfully call him The Robfather.


6. The one where I take the other job.

Like any couple, Dana and I have had our share of major, life-event type conversations over the course of our marriage. This is the house we’re gonna buy. Yes, we’re definitely ready to start a family. I think we should definitely buy the bigger subwoofer. You know. But we can both clearly remember one dinner where we made a decision that has probably had one of the largest impacts on our lives: which job was I going to take? After deciding that I’d be moving on from the golf business, and that we’d be leaving California, I took a trip to the east coast where I interviewed for a position with some custom install firms. I ended up getting two job offer; the one at Custom Theater and Audio and another in Atlanta at a company that I think was called Admit One. The Atlanta job seemed like a really professional outfit that was also starting out, but doing really big business. (I’ll *never* forget the name of the other guy; it was Dick Feis. Except it was pronounced oh-so-cruelly as…face. I kid you not. Seriously, do you think that I could have taken a job where I would have to tell everyone that I worked with a Dick-Face? Yeah, that was just never gonna work out…But, you know, it *could* have been. And why didn’t he pronounce it rhyming with “eyes” or with “peace”? And had his parents always hated children?) But there were some compelling reasons for both jobs. Atlanta was much more similar to the just-outside-of-San Francisco area that we were coming from. It was 6 hours closer to Dana’s family. And he was offering more money to start. But ultimately we chose CTA and Myrtle Beach thinking that if this fell through, I’d have an easier safety net back into golf. A couple of years later, the Atlanta company went out of business. Would it still be in business had I taken the job and would I basically be right where I am now but located in Atlanta? Would I have lost the job and ended up doing something else in Atlanta? Would I have gone crawling back to the golf business? Would I have tried to make a go of all-writing-all-the-time? Hmmm...

What if...instead of taking a few minutes to read this you’d done something else? You’d gone for a walk and stumbled upon some lost treasure. Or you’d clicked over to another Website and caught a pop-up ad that was exactly what you needed. Or maybe by taking the time to read this, you found something in my story that reminded you of a special memory in your own line of dominoes or something that will motivate you to make a choice that will ultimately lead to some new and exciting path. Love to hear any of your “What if...” moments. Those seemingly innocuous decisions made that looking back have added up to make all the difference.

Categories: March 2011, Family

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