We all have seminal moments in our lives, junctions if you will, in what the late, great Terry Pratchett referred to as ‘The Trousers of Time’.
These are divisions in our life trajectory that send us spinning, hither and thither, like an out of control cricket ball, in a certain direction; they split our existence into what is and what could have been.
I doubt there’s a human in existence who doesn’t occasionally mull over these moments in time, wondering about where they could have ended up, had X happened instead of Y.
Sometimes, we are aware that the moment we find ourselves in is a defining one. Usually because it involves some sort of decision. The decision could be ours, or someone else’s, but there’s a definite fork in our proverbial road. We find ourselves occupying the crotch of the time trousers – ready to be projected down one or another of the legs, and into our future.
One such moment for me was the rejection from my chosen university. I wasn’t good enough to make the grade, and so I had to make a second choice. This moment in my life affected everything that happened to me from thereon in. I moved to a completely different city; I met and befriended completely different people; I had a different experience of learning; I had a relationship with a man I’d never have met. That one moment, that one decision, literally changed the direction of my life. Forever.
At other times, we have no awareness that the events that are unfurling (as events are wont to do) will guide the direction of our story. These tend to be random in nature, and so our response to them is less decisive and more reactive.
The last time I saw my father, we had a fight. I don’t suppose either of us contemplated that this might be the last time we’d ever see each other. Had we known, perhaps we’d have tried harder to resolve our differences. Hindsight is a bitch, as they say.
Random events such as this affect how the future you behaves, how you will see the world, how you will conduct yourself in relationships, how will you feel about yourself. They change your life in a million tiny ways that you can’t usually see at the time. And because these sorts of events tend to change who, rather than where, we are, one could argue that they are more potent game changers than any mere decision we may make.
Engaging in ‘what if…’ conversations with ourselves usually triggers feelings of yearning. And feelings of yearning usually trigger ‘what if…’ conversations with ourselves. But is there any benefit from wondering what our lives would be like if we found ourselves in a different place, or with a different person?
Actually, this kind of life examination can be tremendously helpful, if we understand why we are wondering. And it goes back to the aforementioned yearning.
You see, if you should happen to find yourself wondering ‘what if…’, it’s fairly safe to assume that you might feel your life is lacking in some intangible way. The feelings of longing that lead you to wonder in the first place are actually stemming from very real, yet unacknowledged place. This is also known as shitty communication with yourself.
So, rather than wondering what your life might be like if you were with so and so (who, let’s be honest, probably isn’t the sensational super lover you remember them to be), and rather than lamenting yourself for not paying more attention in Science (and forever forfeiting your true life path as rocket scientist extraordinaire), use these feelings to get to the root of what you really need right now.
Infinitely quotable, all round genius, and wise dude Confucius once said: “what appears to be calamity will often give rise to good fortune”. Good advice is timeless (which in this instance is probably just as well), and this advice is pretty much as good as it gets.
You see, for all of these alternative realities you could have found yourself in, you find yourself in this one. And all of these decisions and events – good or bad- that have lead you here, to this place and this time, have made you who you are today. If you found yourself in the left trouser leg, instead of the right one, you wouldn’t be you. Who knows, if you had missed that flight, if you had stayed with X, if you had paid attention in Science – well, that trajectory could have lead you to becoming a complete asshole.
So while it is useful to reminisce, there’s no point if you don’t learn something from it. Whether that be to learn that you want a different job, or even just to understand why you are the way you are, try to use these feelings and thoughts to better inform your future.
That’s the path to being a well-adjusted, proper adult, with an actual wine rack and everything.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Out of Reach.”