Pivotal moments in our personal histories

other timelines personal alternate histories

It's Other Timelines week on AOA, in which we'll be looking at alternate histories of this place, about big and small things that did or did not happen.

Everyone has them -- moments and decisions that could have gone differently. The choices you made put you on the timeline you're on, but what if things had gone differently?

For Other Timelines Week, we talked with a few people about their own pivotal moments and personal alternate histories.

Downtown Albany BID alternate history-in-post ad

ACCVB alternate history in-post ad

FOGS alternate history in-post ad

CDPHP in-post ad

MHHS alternate history in-post ad

Discovering a new community of people

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Alexa DiCristofaro
Graphic designer

I do not know where I would be socially or confidence wise had I not joined the cosplay community. I have been cosplaying for three years and it really has changed a lot about my life.

I had grown up watching anime (Japanese cartoons) and reading manga, but I never put any thought into becoming one of the many characters I would encounter. When I entered college, two of my friends introduced me to cosplay (they had been at it for many years). After buying my first wig and first full cosplay, I was HOOKED. I began to attend conventions throughout the year, some farther away than others, and it became a very big part of my life. However, there was a time where it began to be a little too much on my part. I had to take a step back a few times to be able to find a happy balance between cosplay, graphic design, and my other classes.

I have met the most amazing people through this community and I can call most of them really good friends. I have met people from Florida, Boston, England, even Sweden! This community has so much to give and even now, despite the fact that I have graduated, I am still making my own cosplays and I am planning to attend at least two conventions just to be able to see my friends and have fun for a weekend. It is really a rewarding hobby if you're in it for the memories and the bonds you can make.

(The character in photo is Lavi Bookman from D.Gray-Man.)

Troy v. NYC

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Adam Siemiginowski
Owner of The Hill at Muza

Back in late June of 2014 I was questioning a lot of things all at once. I worked for Proctor and Gamble for a few years and I was living in New York City. I felt like I wanted to move on -- there were like seven days in row where I kept writing down either-or-situations. Do I stay in New York City or go to Troy? Do I stay at Proctor and Gamble or do my own thing? I was dating someone at the time and I questioned that, too.

And after a few weeks I took every one of the aggressive moves. I left New York City and went to Troy. I started arranging to leave Proctor and Gamble and everything fell into place -- they were trying to downsize, so they arranged for me to get a separation package -- but it was kind of a secret application, not everyone knew about it, but it turned out I was a good candidate. And I ended up not being with the person I was dating, which I think was a good thing.

The day I left New York, I told everybody I would be back in four to six months -- and I haven't left Troy.

I think about this all the time. I'm much busier now than I was at Proctor and Gamble. You have more support in a corporate environment. I never get to the end of my to-do list now. But I'm very satisfied.


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Christine Meglino
English teacher/performer

When I was 22 years old, I turned down an 8-month contract to perform on a cruise line. In the two months that followed, I questioned my decision daily. I was convinced I made the wrong choice. I was living back at home, my life lacked purpose, and I felt lost.

To distract myself from what I then called the "worst decision of my life," I spent time with my family and even made a few trips out to New Jersey to visit my grandparents. In time, I realized that I made the right decision. My grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer that same year, and it turned out that the memories I created with him during the eight months I would have been at sea, were my last.

In the last year of his life, we laughed, danced, sang, and with his guidance, I found my purpose and went back to school to become a teacher. If I signed that contract, I would be without some of the best memories I have with my grandpa, and for that, I am forever grateful.

A job became a mission

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Debbi Ross
Manger of the Ronald McDonald House in Albany

Everything was all set in our life. My husband and I were dorm parents at a college in Massachusetts. Our housing was taken care of, we had jobs, and he was traveling to grad school at UAlbany. Then I got a call from a college professor of mine. She asked me to interview for a position as a house manager at the new Ronald McDonald House in Albany. I'm a yes person. If you ask me to do something, and I can, I usually will. I loved this professor, and I read the brochure for the Ronald McDonald House and thought this was something I could do. When I met the members of the board and heard their stories, I knew that I needed to do this.

We were young. We had plans. I agreed to take the job and to live in the house for two years. The two years became 36 years. We raised four children in our apartment in the Ronald McDonald House. All of them spent time at the bedside of a dying child who felt close to them and requested that they be there. Living in my work went from being a 24-hour-a-day job to being a mission.

At one point it felt like we were outgrowing our third floor three-bedroom apartment (two of the bedrooms were loft) in the servant's quarters of the 1886 Victorian Ronald McDonald house. One day, two streets away from RMH, the sweetest 4-bedroom 1912 house went up for sale. Our neighbors asked us to come see it and they lowered the price for us. We had a family meeting, and told the kids they would have adjoining bedrooms separated by French doors, their own backyard and their best friends just happened to live across the street.

After taking a day to think it over, the oldest said she wanted to stay at RMH because she loved living with, and making friends with, sick children and their families. The middle child said she wanted to stay and she promised never to complain about sleeping in a small room with her sister again. She said she would miss seeing the evening volunteers. The five year old was on the fence because she had always dreamed of sleeping in a canopy bed and her RMH loft bedroom didn't allow for that!

In the end everyone said they wanted to stay. Our kids are grown now, and they all volunteer for Ronald McDonald houses and say they are grateful for growing up in an RMH. Is it hard sometimes? Yes. But if you don't come out of your comfort zone once during the day then you don't have purpose.

Tripping into a new job

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Zainab Magdon Ismail
VP of Quality Improvement at American Heart Association

I schlepped my giant 50-pound banner, stickers, and nail file giveaways and set up my table display among 20 other vendors packed into the low-ceiling cafeteria. The room was hot. I was tired. And after six hours of counseling 45 seniors about sodium and soup cans, I was beat; there had to be a better way.

As I tripped over the display while packing it up, the guy next to me struck up a conversation. And just like that everything changed.

I found myself interviewing for a job to make broad public health change -- helping hospitals, health departments, and EMS build health systems. It's riveting work! How do we diagnose disease in the field? How do we shave off minutes where seconds count when triaging patients? Even harder, how do we get people to eat healthier and call 9-1-1 when they have chest pain?

I am dreamer -- perhaps a public health moonshot? I still have table displays, but they are at Harvard and MIT, at innovation forums and hackathons, scoping for the brightest brains to help us overcome sodium and soup cans.

For the love of a cupcake


Jenna Pitera
Librarian and cupcake enthusiast

When All Over Albany was a newer blog, my long distance boyfriend was new to the city, and was using it as a cultural lifeline. He entered, and often won, a lot of the contests. One of the prizes he won was a year's supply of Bettie's Cupcakes.

I was living in Providence Rhode Island at the time. I'm a former suburban Capital District kid, who was sort of sour on the Albany area. My boyfriend would ply me with the offer of these free, amazing cupcakes, and I'd make the trek out and have Capital Region adventures.

Slowly but surely, he and the cupcakes changed my mind about Albany. Our family live in Hudson Park now and we're about to celebrate our fourth anniversary. I really think it's the cupcake win that got me here.


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Ric Orlando
Chef, lecturer, author, Chopped champ

I've had many life-changing events; having my house burn down in 1993, watching all three of my children get born, and marrying Liz. But this was my first life-changing event and ultimately, the one that made me who I am today.

When I was 15 years old I was about to start my sophomore year of high school at East Haven High School. My father and mother's families were both from East Haven, a blue-collar suburb just east of New Haven. My parents got divorced when I was young and I lived with my mother in various apartment complexes and projects within New Haven, the "big" city. Before I started high school, I moved back to East Haven to live with my father and my step mom.

My first year of high school I attended Notre Dame high school in West Haven. It was an all boys Jesuit high school. I actually went on a scholarship because I aced the entry exam. I was always a good tester.

My father's business wasn't doing so well, and finances were always very tight, so even though I was on a scholarship there was still plenty of tuition and other fees to pay. So, my father challenged me to really excel at Notre Dame or I was going to have to go to East Haven High School. Well, as a freshmen, I set the record for the most detentions in one school year at Notre Dame. That tore it. My father sent me to East Haven High School for my sophomore year.

(keep reading)

Job or grad school

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Jason Steven Murphy
Marketing communications, sitcom dad, loud music listener, human (probably)

As I neared the end of undergraduate film school, I faced a quandary: head to LA or NYC to carry cable for an undetermined amount of time, or enroll in grad school. I chose the latter. I guess I was just not ready for a job -- particularly one where paying one's dues might never pay off (though I am definitely happy for the classmates that did make it happen). And while I could do without those student loan bills every month, grad school brought me to this area. Which led me to meeting zillions of awesome humans beings, including my (UNBELIEVABLY COOL) wife of (holy smokes) nine years, who eventually gave birth to our (WICKED AWESOME) daughter in our home.

And guess what? I'm even using the skills I learned in grad school as a marketing specialist at (of all places) a machine tool manufacturing company. While it was occasionally a bumpy ride, I'm calling it overwhelmingly a win.

Leap and the net will appear

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Daniel Berman
Daniel is some kind of food something, busying himself by writing the FUSSYlittleBLOG, working as a community ambassador for Yelp, and judging culinary contests

After college, my lifelong friend Adam was heading to graduate school at Berkeley, and he offered me a ride out to California, and a place to stay when I got there.

With no job, prospects, or connections, I packed up all my things to pursue a career in advertising. After months of informational interviews, and countless rejections, I finally got my foot in the door at a small agency in one of San Francisco's grittiest neighborhoods.

There I learned the business, figured out what I wanted to do in the industry, and launched an interesting career crafting media strategies for General Motors, Taco Bell, Levi Strauss, eBay, Haagen Dazs, got milk? Microsoft, Clorox, and others.

You know, until I left all that behind to follow my wife's dream of being a university professor, and recreated myself into some kind of food something.

A break-up gave way to a dream

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Angelique Powell

I moved away from the region to Boston when I was 23. There I lived for five years, and the entire time I expressed to my then-partner that my passion had once been theater. But all the while something held me back from going out for it.

I would often lament that I was so jealous of my friends who were really brilliant at the things they were passionate about and were making their lives work. I thought that wouldn't happen for me because there was nothing that I was so talented at that I could make a career and be passionate about deep down in my core.

I went through a tough breakup of a longterm relationship that manifested into a deep depression. It led to my return to the Capital region. But the confidence I had gained over my years in the city gave me the strength to audition for a production of Clybourne Park at Schenectady Civic Playhouse.

I haven't stopped performing since. In fact, I quit my retail job for a significant pay cut and started working in the box office at the Palace Theatre where I could be closer to my passion, and I don't think any of that would have happened had I not made the initial move away.

Thanks to everyone for sharing their story!

More from Other Timelines
+ What would Albany be like today if the Empire State Plaza had not been built?
+ Other Timelines drawing: What's a local "what if" question that you'd love to know the answer to?
+ Six huge institutions that set up here... almost
+ The Portal
+ A brief history of the Capital Region's much-admired light rail system
+ Fourth of July


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