October 4, 2013 by JL Walker
“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Doctor Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished… He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Doctor Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home…”
These are the opening lines from the early ’90s TV show Quantum Leap. Scott Bakula played the main character, who usually saved people from serious, life-or-death situations with big consequences. Change the outcome of the JFK assassination? Check. Save Marilyn Monroe’s life? Check. Help out other pop culture icons before they became famous, like Michael Jackson and Buddy Holly? Check and check.
Quantum Leap was a sci-fi show about time travel, but its premise was also based on the butterfly effect theory: that one seemingly small event can cause a chain reaction, resulting in a much larger change.
What if Dr. Beckett had leaped into my time to help me make one little choice? Is there one thing that would have changed the course of my life that Sam and Al could have helped me decide in order to make a huge difference? As a matter of fact, yes.
Scene: Flashback to a small town Ohio high school in 1997. A young student is faced with a tough decision: continue with her French studies but be forced to drop one of two very interesting and important classes (American Studies and Jazz Band) or choose another foreign language to complete her graduation requirements. What’s a girl to do?
As you’ve probably figured out, that girl was me. I couldn’t continue with French at my high school, so I made the odd choice of learning Italian. One reason behind this decision was that I could take classes at the local university so I could spend a few hours a week with older students. Another reason is that Italian sounded like such a musical language. I had always seen it on sheet music (adagio, crescendo, etc.) and at Italian restaurants (antipasti, bolognese, cacciatore, need I go on?) and I wasn’t too sure of the correct pronunciation. So here was my chance to find out!
Can one simple decision at a young age change the trajectory of your entire life? If I had continued with French, I might be seeking French citizenship right now. Or I could have chosen Portuguese and maybe I’d be seeking Brazilian citizenship.
I certainly didn’t take that class in 1997 thinking it would affect my future, other than maybe earning a few extra credits for college. If I had made a different decision, though, I would never have studied abroad in Milan, met my husband, chosen to make a life for myself here, get married and apply for dual citizenship. Was it fate? Or was it just a simple case of a butterfly flapping its wings in Ohio, causing a reaction in Italy?