Thursday, August 13, 2009

What might have been

Do you ever look back on decisions you've made over the course of your life, big or small, and wonder if you'd made a different choice, what might the outcome have been?

It never ceases to amaze me how life seems at once to be a series of happy (or not-so-happy) coincidences and also a series of meaningful events. If I had not done this, if I had not gone here, if I had not gone to that party or written on that message board or applied for that job, life might have been so different. When I was a little kid, I loved to hear the story of how my parents met: at a party on Valentine's Day, at the home of mutual friends, when each was dating someone else. My dad dated 3 women with the same first name; the 3rd was my mom. If one or the other of them hadn't gone to the party, I never would have come into existence! How mind-blowing is that when you're five, or even when you're 30? If Dan's brother had never told him about the message board, if I hadn't IM'd him, if I'd been seriously dating someone else, if if if. So many choices, so many possibilities, so many futures that could have happened but didn't.

As I mentioned before, we saw 500 Days of Summer this past weekend, and while I don't feel talented enough to do a movie review that could actually do the film justice, there are a few bits that keep sticking with me. The theme of choices and how certain choices lead to certain outcomes, whether they be coincidence or whether they hold actual meaning, whether things happen at random or whether something is meant to be, whether you have a soul mate or whether any number of people could work out to be a good long-term partner, is explored in ways both subtle and profound throughout the film. Some people I know met their partners in unusual ways, while others knew each other for years in some fashion before ending up together. Either way, one might argue both sides of the meant-to-be vs. happy coincidence debate. Regardless of how you meet your SO, what really matters is what you do with the relationship once you're in it, whether you turn out to be compatible long-term or whether it will be a finite sort of thing.

It's not just relationships that this applies to, though, since the jobs that you apply for and the places you go and the daily decisions you make (salad or cheeseburger? gym or veg out on the couch?) all have influences on your life, long-term, even if taken individually they might not seem that way. You meet people and make friends and have adventures. People come in and out of your life. People you happened to become penpals with when you're a teenager turn out to be good friends despite living on the other side of the country 15 years later. People you think are going to be single-serving friends turn out to be far more important than you would have ever imagined - my aunt's best friend, for example, she met while in the hospital giving birth to my cousin. The best friend was in the next bed over, and they've been friends for nearly 31 years now, and though she was then the lady giving birth the same day, she and her son are family members now. Sometimes I wonder what people who were once in my life but no longer are might be up to; someday I'll write the story of my cowboy friend from Michigan. But that's a tale for another time.

Speaking of blasts from the past, I'm facebook friends with my College Boyfriend's brother. He just joined and last night put up photos of his two daughters (whom I've never met). The older daugher looks like her mom (CB's bro's wife). I had to do a double-take when I saw the photo of the younger daughter, as she had inherited her uncle's (CB's) eyes. I looked into the face of that baby and saw what my baby might have looked like had I had one with College Boyfriend. I never had more than a slight pregnancy scare during the 3 years College Boyfriend and I were together, and had I gotten pregnant during that time I would have been in no way ready to have a baby, let alone be tied for life to College Boyfriend. Things didn't work out with him for very good reason. Maybe it's because babies are on my mind these days, wondering how Dan's and my potential progeny will look. But seeing College Boyfriend's eyes in his niece's face gave me a little glimpse of what might have been, had accidents happened, had different choices been made. It was a little bit freaky.


Anonymous said...

I sometimes think about a pregnancy scare I had my freshman year of college, and how 1) it would have been TERRIBLE to be tied to that very immature boy for the rest of my life via our child, and 2) that child would be (DEAR GOD) 13 years old this year. Yes, I could have been the mother of a TEENAGER right now. HOLY. EFFING. SHIT.

But yeah, I always think about the what ifs, and get a weird, scary delight out of thinking how close I've come to situation X, Y, or Z.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Most of that movie was filmed right in front of my office! It was a trip seeing them in all the restaurants and bars I'm usually frequenting.

Hillary said...

I think about stuff like this all the time. I met my husband in a bar. I was supposed to be out celebrating my birthday with my boyfriend but then we broke up a few days before. Instead I went to a shady Irish bar with my girlfriend to cheer me up. So many ifs.