The Big What If

Pick your path...

Pick your path…

I was speaking with a friend the other day.

One of my oldest friends of all, the one who’s known me since grade school, who shared in my teenage indiscretions and was maid of honour at my wedding. We live far apart and have for some time, but whenever we get together it’s as though time and distance dissolve and we are ageless, one moment fifteen-year-old girls giggling like mad, the next women in our forties with husbands and kids and work and all that implies.

It’s great. I love it.

So we were talking about choices and the things we’ve done in our lives. Looking back, as you do. She wanted to know more about my writing, saying,

‘You know, you’ve always been a fantastic writer.’

She’s not the first of my friends to say this to me. To point out something it took me years to realise, that my passion lay with the written word. I reminded her of how, when we were eighteen and going through the routine of university applications, I was accepted into the Creative Writing degree at York University in Toronto. And I turned it down. She nodded, remembering. I went for a different degree instead, a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Visual Communication, a pathway along which I thought my future lay. We were so young to have to make those decisions, she said. Her degree was in something for which she had no particular interest – it was simply to get a degree, for that’s what was expected of us in those days. We talked some more about choice and where it can lead you, and decided in the end that we’d both lived interesting lives so far and that there was no point, really, in regrets.

In the Narnia series, still one of my all time favourites, I remember Aslan, the great Lion, telling Lucy (and I may be paraphrasing a little here) that ‘we never get to know what if.’ And I love that thought. I find it very comforting. There are theories out there about parallel universes, that every time we make a choice another universe branches off from our own, an alternate version of us living the life we would have had if we had chosen the other route. Yet we remain blissfully unaware, forced to deal with the consequences of the choice we did make. Thank goodness for that! I think it would be insanity to live otherwise, to be able to see the myriad repercussions of choices we did and didn’t make, all spread out in some horrific Bosch-ian tangle of limbs and lives.

If I’m honest, every so often I do think of the chance missed to take that degree in Creative Writing. And then I consider the fact that I’m writing anyway. And I wonder, would I be able to write the books I have, the work I’ve had published, had I not lived the life I’ve lived? Everything happens for a reason and I think we are brought to where we are supposed to be in the end, as long as we’re willing to keep searching, keep taking chances, keep making choices. And I’m glad I don’t know ‘what if,’ for I am very happy with ‘what is.’

How about you? Are there any what-if’s hanging around in your life?

PS Health update – I’m healing well and was able to sit at the computer long enough to write this today – yay! Onwards and upwards 🙂


12 thoughts on “The Big What If

  1. As much as I wish I could have had an easier road, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be writing what I am now if I hadn’t experienced the life I did. Better? Worse? No idea.

  2. It took me a long time to accept that I was a writer. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had accepted it sooner and not spent ten years being utterly miserable doing things I didn’t care about. But here I am, and I’ll never know the answer to my “what if”, so it’s best to accept things and move forward.

    • Absolutely, Holly. And I also think that sometimes things don’t come to us until we’re ready. I had many years doing things I hated as well but I feel they are part of who I am and the writer I am today.

  3. What a beautiful post! As for Aslan, he is so wise! I agree with everything you’ve written. As you know, my first degree wasn’t writing, but it was a great career choice and opened up many years of wonderful experiences. I don’t regret it for a second. Things happen for a reason, and at the time they’re meant to.

    • Thanks Louise – I feel the same way. I don’t know that I’d be able to write the things I write now without the life experience I’ve had. No regrets, absolutely!

  4. Yes, lots of “what ifs” in my life. I try not to give them too much head space – and I’m getting better at it. It seems easier the older I get. Perhaps it’s an increasing realisation of how precious and short time is….. Fill it with regrets and where’s the space for living?

  5. Got a scholarship to do a PhD in Sydney…. didn’t take it. It was the right choice at that time.

    Got told I might not be able to have kids unless I got pregnant fast – got pregnant. That too was the right choice at the time.

    I find that if I reason enough I make sensible choices and the right ones for that moment. Just because the consequences might not be to my liking doesn’t mean the choice wasn’t right…

    Consequences are tough though. They can make even the most resolute in our decisions waiver. But I suppose if we aren’t happy where we are now, then we have a choice…. live with it, or change it…. just another what if!

    loved this post a lot. 🙂

    • Thanks Sacha, and thank you for sharing. I think that’s the scariest thing about choice, the consequences. I think that maybe it’s what paralyses people and keeps them in one place. I’ve always been someone who would rather say ‘I did that,’ rather than ‘I could have done that.’ It’s worked out pretty well for the most part, and I think I didn’t take that degree choice because it wasn’t right at the time. I can always do it now if I want to!

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