I’ve been thinking a lot about other lives lately. I don’t mean like, past lives or anything. I mean, the possible other hypothetical lives we all have. The ones that could have existed if we’d made a few different choices in life. I don’t mean this in a bad way. I like how my life is going right now, thank you very much. But it’s in my nature to think too much about what-ifs and could-have-beens.
There’s a multiverse theory of which I am not particularly well-versed that goes something like this: every decision we make, even the small, unconscious choices, splits the universe into a new fork. In another universe, you decided yesterday to call into work sick and go to the beach instead. While at the beach, you met a handsome stranger, and agreed to see them again. After several dates and conversations and cups of coffee, maybe you fell in love and decided to spend your lives together.
But instead, in this universe, you went to work yesterday. And nothing all that terrible or interesting happened. And maybe in a few years, you meet someone else at an art gallery or a funeral or an online dating site and you fall in love.
These choices don’t have to be catastrophic, and the beauty of it all is that we’ll never know what futures could have awaited us if we’d chosen differently.
But it’s the golden hour of the evening and I’m watching the fading sunlight stretching long shadows into my bedroom walls and thinking about how everything, even the half empty Pepsi cup on my side table from lunch, looks much more beautiful and romantic in this light.
So I’m listening to some 16 year old girl reading poetry on Youtube who is vastly more talented than I’ll ever be and thinking about all the possible other lives I could have had. Not in a melancholy way, just out of boredom and an overactive imagination – the two main motivating factors in my life thus far.
In another life, I decided to go to graduate school in New England and study literature. I devote myself to Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson and Jane Austen and become an eccentric tweed-wearing professor. I host wine tasting events and discuss the classics over merlot and camembert with my grad students and tenured colleagues.
In another life, I went to performing arts school in NYC like I always thought I would when I was younger. Maybe I found my way to Broadway or Hollywood, but most likely I’m a struggling actress waiting tables somewhere in Brooklyn. I’m dead on my feet at the end of every day but I still find time to rehearse monologues with my four roommates in our cramped loft in Queens. It’s not glamorous, but it still seems beautiful enough to me.
In another life, I had the guts and the bank account to study abroad somewhere in London or Paris, and I spend each morning eating pain au chocolat and sipping espresso at a cozy little cafe downtown.
In another life, I actually dyed my hair pink that one time I was going to in 2015, and nothing really changed all that much except maybe I got more compliments and dirty looks when I went grocery shopping and maybe I realized what an absolute pain in the ass keeping up with hair dye is when your natural color is much darker.
In another life, maybe I’m sitting in a bedroom somewhere at dusk, dreaming about a life where I’d studied journalism and started a blog and gotten a job in marketing right out of college.
The point is, I think, we have the lives we have for reasons, whether they be random accidents or divine intervention. I don’t know how many different versions of me there are in how many different universes. The point isn’t that I wish my life had gone one of these ways instead. Besides, there are still plenty of years left in which to make new choices and revisit old ones. But sometimes it’s just nice to dream, right?