The Life I Could Have Had

In my mid-twenties
I applied to and was accepted
Into the Princeton graduate / post-graduate program
In Philosophy

I had been accepted by two of the three other places I applied

I was maybe five months from leaving my Civil Service job
As a mathematician
Trying to figure out how to stretch the money I had saved
Hoping to talk my way into an assistanceship

It was Spring
One of my best friend’s weddings was coming up in a couple weeks
I played basketball with some friends on a Sunday
When I went home, I crashed on the bed
When I woke up, it was Monday evening
And I was on the floor

I got up
Fed my cat
Left a message on my boss’s phone at work
Went back to bed

Woke up, and it was Wednesday
Fed the cat again
Noticed I had bruises all over my body
Went back to bed

Woke up on Friday morning
Fed the cat
Got dressed for work
Showed up right at lunchtime
Looking like death
Some co-worker friends asked me
To come to lunch with them

During lunch
I had a massive seizure
I had been having them for days
And didn’t know it

I missed my friend’s wedding
I was in and out of the hospital for two years
I lost all my money
I lost that chance at graduate school
But, even at death’s door
I made sure my cat kept getting fed

I am an epileptic
I gradually carved out a life
Through grace
Rebuilding my body
Recovering from years of depression

I finally went to graduate school
But it was nowhere prestigious
And it was in Statistics, not Philosophy
But I used that to become an actuary

I have a wonderful job
I work at a place that genuinely cares
About its customers
And employees
And the community at large
As well as shareholders

So, I missed out on my dream
Through illness, depression, near-suicide

But recovered to one day
Fall in love
Have a family
Find a rewarding career

And write about it


I would still rather not have seizures


(“The Life I Could Have Had” – 3/26/2015)

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41 Thoughts to “The Life I Could Have Had

  1. What an experience! Life has a way of throwing those curve balls at us, doesn’t it? What a long journey you must have had to get to where you are today. May your seizures get better or go away, they must be tough to live with.

  2. Is this a truthful autobiography (rather than adopting of persona?)
    If so – I appreciate the free verse. But I know you often take on the voice of various poetic personae…

      1. Yes – second year for me.
        I discovered your blog through the event last April and I am glad for the poetic invigoration.

  3. Wow wow wow–what a great story of an over-comer. I’m sad for the affliction, but proud of what you have now, in addition to it. God bless you.

  4. Owen, I am the mother of a son with epilepsy brought on by a TBI. I am so very moved by your gift anyway but now I see it as a triumph. So honored to have found your words. Thank you for sharing them.

      1. It’s a day by day journey. The medicine seems to be holding now but that changes over time. His fight with depression is one we must stay on top of all the time. I love him so and wish I could take it from him but the best I can do is love him through it

  5. Ah, life.. If only we could see the other side of the tapestry, we might understand how terrible things built the most important parts of us (and perhaps what other and greater horror was avoided). Meanwhile, I’m truly sorry you have to suffer such a threat and menace. You’ve had to work incredibly hard to get where you are — well done!

  6. This moves me as deeply this time as when I read it before. You are in my ‘hero’ basket, Owen. I love so very much how you turned this trial into a life of love and poetry.

      1. It is indeed but oh so amazing when someone takes control and makes it beautiful in another way.

      1. You’re very welcome πŸ™‚ your story meant a lot to me also. It taught me that there’s always hope, even at death’s door. x

  7. They say that hard times make us strong, but this was a long hard way to get there. So glad you kept on going. All the best for your future.

      1. I like the candid nature of it….i’m always so hesitant to publicly share poetry that goes too deep. Well done to your bravery, and happy to know you’re doing better

  8. Twas so emotional and sad…. But am glad you’re strong and things are turning out great for you….. Sending love & blessings your way πŸ’•πŸŒΈπŸ™

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