Did you ever wonder if there’s an alternate universe? One parallel that’d be occurring if you made the other choice? Or instead, whether life is like the movie Sliding Doors, where everything ends up the same regardless if you stepped into this train or the next?
I fantasize a lot about the roads not taken, and I picture myself standing at 50-pronged forks, an insane amount of decisions with which to contend, and ‘what if’ scenarios to play out afterward.
If I married the guy I thought was ‘the one’ from the get go, would I be richer and happier? Would I have the three children, all with a father, a passport full of adventures? My therapist calls it my fairytale.
“No one’s life is perfect,” he reminds me. Except for mine, in my head, had I taken the other route. The stories become more elaborate, with my faux children the same age as their cousins, and of course, they’re all besties. In my other life, I go on weekend trips with my high school friends, because we all got married and had kids within the same five-year span. My writing career flourishes as a stay-at-home mom, never missing a milestone or shedding a tear at daycare drop off. My children are in their teens, memories with grandparents solidified for life. This path didn’t involve stops for depression or treatment for anxiety. It was block parties and school musicals, Mother’s Day crafts wrapped in beautiful messes and Sunday family movies. Then my sister snaps me out of it.
“You don’t know what it’d be like,” she says.
“Having a partner isn’t the answer,” a friend adds.
Of course, there’s the fact that I wasn’t ready to commit to an entire lifetime of one person, one house, and my own grown-up family, and had I done it at the time, I’d imagine the other life I didn’t choose, which is the one I lead now, only the fairytale version. From the vantage point of being a married woman tied down with several kids, I’d imagine my life still single, remaining in the film industry, traveling the world working on productions and becoming a famous producer. Then I’d meet my prince charming while on hiatus at a posh resort or during a long weekend in the Hamptons.
In both of these scenarios – where I stay single and imagine if I’d had a nuclear family and also where I get married and think about the alternate solo life – there are stories I tell myself while turning nonexistent pages of books never written. There are only my best guesses and assumptions, no winning or knowing.
And of course, there’s no Tod Doodle, and for sure there’s no Autumn.
Thinking about Autumn forces me to imagine there’s only one path – no prongs – just a single road, twisting and turning. I careen around corners, slow down, then accelerate on the straightaways. Although I am made to believe I have a say in my fate, it is all predestined, the way sneaky bosses distribute surveys, then feed them to shredders. And I think that this must be it. That certain things, and people, happen for a reason. There are still too many innocent people taken away too soon to make any foregone conclusions, but I have to believe that at least some occurrences are meant to be.
I think of the ways the world works. A butterfly flaps its wings, rippling its impact throughout time. We hear stories where mere seconds make all the difference. Someone misses a flight or just makes it by an instant. Two people meet and stars align. And I know that every choice along my way, served the ultimate purpose.