I started watching HBO’s House of the Dragon recently, and of course, began missing that world, so I had to go back and binge Game of Thrones again. Since I’d seen it all, I could skip over parts that didn’t appeal to me, like mostly anything with Ramsay Bolton, and some of the Dothraki male chest-beating (after Jason Momoa had left, of course!).
But so many stories this time really hit me in the face with bad choices. I mean, obvious bad choices that people make more or less blithely, and the rest of their lives go down the toilet because of them.
For example, Ned Stark is raising a nice family in the North, farming and killing the occasional wildling, etc. His wife is healthy and happy, and his children are growing up all rambunctious and destined for happy futures. But Robert Baratheon demands he leave his settled home and come to King’s Landing to get involved in international politics. Ned knows he shouldn’t go. Catelyn knows he shouldn’t go. Okay, everyone but Sansa, and she’s an underaged whiner, so….don’t listen to her. So he decides to go, unraveling the futures of every member of his family. WHY?
Daenerys Targaryen travels to the desert lands, and comes out of her Dothraki experience a little singed but brave as heck. She saves thousands of slaves and unseats hundreds of sticky old Masters, creating a whole swath of countries that regard her in the highest, calling her “Mother of Dragons,” and worshiping her. She could rule there, happy, healthy and with her choice of hot men… but she tosses it all for her old guardians’ dream of taking Westeros. This choice leads unerringly to the destruction of her dragons and eventually, herself. WHY?
Or Sansa, who finds herself in a hellish situation, one after another, really, and she passes on every chance to get out of there, because she still thinks she’s going to have the fairy tale. Not until she’s wed to Tyrion and the shit hits the fan, does she decide to escape. WHY?
Seems to be those who start out innocent who make the worst choices. Obviously, I can’t list Cersei, Littlefinger, or any of the usual schemers here. Their decisions have assorted consequences, but they always have some underpinned motive, so, they get what they deserve.
Pondering all this makes me wonder whether I’ve committed these same sins. I’m sure many of us begin to have these questions in our mind, the older we get, the more distance we have on the decisions we’ve made, now that we’ve seen where we ended up. We all know that our paths lie before us like tree branches, giving us a variety of options. If we take the left path, we give up what may have been ahead of us on the right.
I had the option to attend a private college in Illinois; I chose to stay close to home at Kent State. Could have changed things forever. Fell in love and followed my future husband to his school rather than accepting a job to begin my post-college life, DEFINITELY changed my future as I became a mom pretty soon thereafter, settling down instead of going out to explore the world. Moved across the country with him, then across the country again. several jobs later, I decided to go to law school.
(All the lawyers are out there yelling “WHY?” Yeah. I know.)
That set me on a new path but only a few miles from home. What if I’d gone out of state? What if I’d gone to a public school in Tallahassee instead? What a different future I might have had if I’d never met my second husband?
Unsatisfied with south Florida, we moved to Pennsylvania, which set off a number of other choices, leading to a third marriage post-40 to a man with three children under the age of 5. Yeah, this was a biggie. Just when I was getting to the empty nest part, coming into a good place in my career, I could have sat back and enjoyed these fruits.
So, yes, WHY?
It’s a big question. It’s done, so not much point debating it, or regretting it. (Which I really don’t–these have been 20 productive years in my writing career) But it does provide food for thought, and a wish that young people had the foresight to see past impulsive decisions when making these choices. But that’s not really the way of things, is it?
And as it turned out, I never got a castle. Or a dragon.
But I also wasn’t burnt, infected, slain, poisoned, beheaded, eaten by dogs, crushed, stabbed, shot with an arrow on the toilet, or zombie-fied. So maybe I chose all right, anyway.