Looking back, it seems like some of the best times in life are the ones when you were faced with a whole multitude of different possibilities. The first day of school, graduation, your wedding day, moving to a new city, taking a new job…. These were the points you made a change or a decision that shaped the person you were going to be.
The most overused metaphor in this situation is the fork in the road, the character standing on the edge of that monotonous, boring pathway and staring off into the distance, musing at the number of lines diverging from where they stood. They also usually mention some kind of portent of greatness, or fear of the unknown, or a brief longing to turn back on the familiar, before the hero ultimately decides to take the path of greatest resistance.
Notice though, how after that point the hero almost never thinks back on that moment and says to themself, “I could always go back and take that other path–the one on the left, or maybe that middle one–another time. Who says it has to be just the one path? Why not finish up with this one and then explore a couple more options? And while we’re at it, who said I had to stay on this damn path anyway? Can’t I cut across the fields?”
Of course, this sentiment is coming from the person who used to cheat while reading those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. Whenever I got to one of those fork pages, I’d turn down the page so I could come back in case I didn’t like the ending. Or heck, just in case I wanted to start over from where I left off, instead of the beginning. Consequently in most other aspects of life I never really learned how to accept the inevitability of my choices like “normal” people do, with no questioning the fairness of the results, and with no wiggle room.
That’s why, I suppose, I’m continually in a state of renovation. Like an old building that keeps getting remodeled, only each wing is in a different style. Every time I start to lean toward completion, I start coming up with new ideas of how that one area could really use a little sprucing up, and I’ll have plenty of time to come back to this one later. But maybe it’s not artistic ADD or an inability to commit to just one theme… maybe it’s fear. Maybe I’m just terrified of being finished, of coming to the end of the story.
(By the way, if you’ve lost track of the number of metaphors I’ve used in this post, the total is three. And if you want to use that as yet another metaphor for my seeming inability to remain monothematic, you just go right ahead.)
Regardless of the implication or the frequency of the metaphor, my intrepid main character now finds herself standing at one of these pesky forking roads, and here are the questions running through her mind:
Is it wrong to go through life as a constant work in progress, never becoming complete, even if it’s by choice? Should I start limiting myself to one path if I’m ever to achieve my true potential? Can I do this without feeling trapped? Or should I just sabotage all of the other roads except one, so I no longer have to wonder what would’ve happened if I’d gone down the others?
Should I just rip out the pages to stop myself from flipping back through in search of another ending?
Should I bomb the parts of the house that don’t seem to fit with one overall, coherent design?
Are there any more metaphors I can think of that might better illustrate my point?
2 thoughts on “The Roads-Pages-Wings Not Taken”
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a seeker, which is what I assume you are, given your desire to ponder your past and wonder “what if?” and the many interests that you actively pursue (especially things like the LSAT, which a lot of people hinge their lives on)
It’s my belief that you should never limit yourself, or you will, by necessity, be making it impossible for you to achieve your true potential. You can be a writer, a poet, a musician, a lawyer, a doctor, an actress and everything else your heart desires. Some of the avenues you follow may suffer as a result of tracing a different path, and many will leave you at a dead-end. You might consider this a waste of time, but instead, I would look at it as another “what if?” scratched off of your list.
You may find, in the end, that you only truly desire to be – or excel at and love – one particular thing, but I find that doubtful. Cut through the forest if you feel like it. Make your own path. Forget about what anyone else thinks is right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, sane or insane. This is your life and you owe it to yourself to live it with the fullness you feel it deserves and enrich yourself – while enhancing your enjoyment of life – in whatever way suits you best.
Anyone can walk on the beaten paths. Anyone can retrace their steps. Anyone can do what others have done, and do it the exact same way. My only question for you would be “Why would you want to be just like Anyone or Everyone?” I don’t really know you, but I know that you possess talents that span a wide variety of intellectual and artistic pursuits. I know this from reading what you write and “watching” you DO it.
The only limiting thing I see in you (referencing your previous post on your dreams) is a nagging doubt that, maybe, you’ve gone down the wrong road. Maybe you’ve made mistakes that kept you from going places you might like to be. The simple truth of it is, if you want to, you will get to all of those places, and many more if you just continue to pursue your interests with passion and persistence. The multi-forked road through your life’s forest will most likely look like a crop-circle when you get done.
I could offer to point you in the direction of some non-preachy materials that might help you get rid of your sense of possible-past-regrets, but I won’t impose upon you without your permission.
Keep on doing what you’re doing. Or stop and start doing what you want to be doing. Do things half-assed, bounce back and forth. However you wish. You’re a talented and brilliant person and the biggest shame of all would be for you to look back at your life and find that you spent far too much time examining it.
Mike (Apologies for any typos 🙂
Haha, thanks, Mike. You’re like Yoda, if Yoda was a little more angry and going through nicotene withdrawals.
But seriously, it really does mean a lot to hear an outside perspective of someone who doesn’t really know me all that well, but who still “gets” it. It gives me hope that someday, there might be a couple dozen people out there in the world who will want to read my crazy idealistic musings and fictional whatnot.
As for the inspirational literature, I think my mom’s pretty much got that covered. She’s really into sending me “self-improvement” books. They look awesome on my shelf, but that’s about the only function they serve. I’m kind of allergic to reading stuff that Oprah likes. Nothing against it as a persuesion, it just makes me feel… cold inside. And a little hungry.
Keep up the commenting! You’re a gold mine of useful insight!
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