What are the things that haunt you the most? Is it the youth that you’ve outgrown? The love that you let go? The people you hurt? Or the people that hurt you?
Is it the career that you could have had if you went the extra mile? Or the extra mile you walked when you didn’t need to, for someone who didn’t value you?
Is it the helplessness you feel when you see your children repeating your mistakes? Or the regret that you didn’t encourage them, when they pursued a dream that was not yours?
Is it the one night stand that you had last month? Or the relationship you could have had, last year?
Is it the dream you let go because you thought it was too hard to reach for? Or the life that you reached for, but didn’t work out in the end?
Is it the spouse you settled for, because the one you really wanted was way out of your league? Or the love of your life you married, but don’t love anymore?
What keeps you awake at night? What niggles at you even when your life is comfortable, nothing seems wrong on the surface, yet if you peel off the layers, everything would potentially come crashing down.
Do you get the feeling that you’re simply existing? Floating from one day to the next. Living a good life. But not a great one.
Do you dream of a parallel life?
I know that I have. I dream of it every other day.
If we had to pinhole our lives into boxes, we would have categories : Career. Love. Children. Travel. Family. Lifestyle.
While I’ve managed to be somewhat happy with the way my career has progressed, I often dream of a parallel life with respect to everything else.
It begs the question. How much of what we are today or where we are today is due to circumstances, things beyond our control? And how much of this is because of the choices we make?
Choice is a strange and powerful thing. The moment you make one choice, it’s often the end of another. And it has the potential to change the course of your whole life.
Have you thought of where you’ll be five, ten or twenty years hence? Look at your choices today. And the sub-choices you’ll probably make tomorrow. And in between, make provisions for life to happen to you along with all its uncertainties.
In short, it’s practically impossible to know where we’re going to be even one year hence. Given that so many things are simply beyond our control.
Can you tell if the one who sleeps besides you at night, will be there a year from now? Or if the job you hold so dear will still be yours? Or if the friends you see everyday will be hale and hearty always? Or the parents that you hardly visit anymore, will be around?
Perhaps, it’s because our lives are a mixed up mess of choices and circumstances, that we so often dream of things that we can never have or could have had.
A friend who often complains of marital problems regrets her early marriage. Yet, her life seems fine on the surface. A wealthy husband, a normal happy child, holidays to exotic destinations and nice clothes. But she complains of a feeling of restlessness. Of wanting more. Being more.
A colleague wishes they had left their fiancee for their first love. Another grumbles of wasting their academic years in meaningless pursuits. Yet another wishes they hadn’t wasted their youth studying for a degree that they now have little use for.
If I could live my life all over again, I would travel more in my early twenties, be more adventurous, take bigger risks, date more, write more and in general, just be braver about living my life.
Are we in fact all restless souls, trying to live many lives in one life?
Do we feel that this life is our last chance? That we may never get to experience all that we think we ought to? Do we always need new stories to give ourselves?
I love what Cheryl Strayed says in her lovely book,
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Someone Who’s Been There
“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
What about you, gentle reader, have you dreamt of a parallel life?