Let’s Play a Game of ‘What If’
I’ve been playing a game, recently.
It’s called the game of ‘What If.’
What if there had been no pandemic?
What if Patient Zero never entered that wet market on that fateful day? Would the world still be in lockdown?
Even the most logical, analytical minds are rolling the dice and making moves on the board.
Ben, the most rational person I know, tells me he often wonders what his life would have been like if he’d accepted an offer to study in Tasmania instead of Melbourne.
Would he have been able to buy a house earlier in his life?
Would he still be living in Australia or in an apartment halfway across the world?
Would we still have ended up together or would he have found someone else to send flowers to and watch documentaries with?
I read a book recently that explores this idea of parallel universes or alternate realities. It talks about how when we make a choice, there’s another version of us out there who made the opposite decision. So, if we were to drive to a crossroads and turn left, there’s another reality out there where we turned right. If we said yes to a job in this life, there’s another universe where we said no.
You probably weren’t expecting a mindboggling, philosophical discussion when you clicked this post — but stay with me here.
It got me thinking.
If this theory is true — and it’s a big if — then somewhere out there is a version of me who’s living a completely different life because of a completely different set of choices.
The other Ash did not become a writer; she decided to bury her desires and try out the lawyer shtick for safety and stability.
The other Ash didn’t have a falling out with her old friends. She stayed comfortably in that friendship group for years, never ventured out to meet new people, and subsequently, never met Ben.
The other Ash is in a relationship with someone else, perhaps a carpenter with hazel brown eyes and a crooked smile.
I know I’m not the only one who entertains thoughts of ‘what if.’ TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Rick and Morty, and Friends like to devote entire episodes to exploring this rabbit hole.
The One Where They Never Met.
The One Where Ross Never Got a Divorce, Monica Never Lost Weight, and Rachel Never Ran Out On Her Wedding Day.
I’m willing to bet you’ve played this game, too. You wonder what life would look like if things had gone better with an ex. If you’d never been bullied into submission by a boss. If you’d turned left at the crossroads instead of right.
Sometimes, playing this game is fun. It’s utterly surreal to connect the dots and marvel at how a series of seemingly insignificant decisions led us to find our ‘calling’ or meet ‘the love of our life.’
Other times, it’s unhealthy. We obsess over the past when the present moment isn’t what we want it to be. It can cripple us and cause us to overthink every little decision. Or it can cause us to fill ourselves with regret: if only I’d been smarter, funnier, prettier back then. We can get so caught up in ‘what if’s’ that we can’t enjoy the blessings of the present.
At the end of the day, we are where we are for a reason. We have to live out the consequences of our decisions and choose to enjoy them or learn from them. I’m learning to make peace with the choices I low-key regret, even if they do make me cringe.
I’m not 100% sold on whether there are a hundred versions of me living out completely different storylines.
Call me naive or an eternal optimist, but I like to think that all roads lead back here. Yes, I could have studied something else, moved somewhere else, dated someone else. But I imagine something would have happened with each of those decisions that led me back to where I am now: a writer, with Ben, in Melbourne.