There's this great episode from Season 8 of Grey's Anatomy called "If/Then". Meredith, in her opening voice-over, ponders what would happen if just a thing or two had gone differently in her life, if she had made different choices somewhere along the way. The episode goes on to show all of our favorite characters in this alternate dimension, where Mere didn't turn out dark and twisty. But here's the thing, as you watch, the story unfolds eventually leading all the characters back to the people and choices they had made all along in the real world. In the closing moments, Mere's right there at Joe's with McDreamy downing tequila shots. Even though everything was different, nothing was really different.
And I know that you are staring at the computer going, "So you don't write for months and the first thing you come back with is a Grey's Anatomy recap from two years ago? Seriously?" (heh, heh...seriously?) But stay with me. Who among us hasn't wondered if life would be different if the events of our lives played out in some other way? What if I'd attended that other college? Chosen a different career? What if I had said "yes" instead of "no"? Would my life have somehow turned out measurably better than the one I'm living?
I've know I've certainly traveled a mile or two down those roads. It's usually when I find myself angry or stressed out about something from my current life. C'mon, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Something goes wrong at work and you find yourself mentally counting off the list of other careers you could have had and how you wouldn't have any problems in any of those. Your friend says something that hurts your feelings, and you start making a list of all the people you should start hanging out with instead of this inconsiderate wretch. Your mind wonders and because our minds are so good at imagining any manner of things, you picture a world where all the world's a stage and you're the star. (I can only speak for the extroverts here. Introverts, I'm assuming yours is more like all the world's a stage and you get to be left alone in the prop room or something.) You have a brilliant career in which you are universally admired and revered. You have the picture perfect family, like something right off the Hallmark card. You go on glamorous vacations, have wonderful friends. Your life is shiny and bright and not even remotely inside the realm of possibility.
I don't say this to be a Debbie Downer. I'm not trying to say that you can't have nice things and enjoy them with nice people. I'm not even saying that you can't dream up something and pursue it. You can, and maybe you should. But even if you make those other choices, your life won't be perfect. Because here's the news flash: Life is never perfect. I have a friend who hates the saying, "It is what it is." But I really think it's true here. Your life is your life is your life and you can always change the sails, but that doesn't mean your new direction will never be stormy. It also doesn't mean you won't end up right back where you were supposed be all along.
I chose a simple life for myself. I live in the same community I was raised in around the same people I've known all my life. I teach in the very same school district I attended, for goodness sake. (I've chosen to be in middle school indefinitely. Crazy, right?) My life isn't fancy, but it's mine. (At least whatever parts I'm not still paying for.) I spend 90% of my time feeling like I don't have any clue how to do pretty much anything, and yet somehow, I've carved out a life. Sure, there were other paths, and sometimes it's fun to imagine them, but that's all it ever really is. I just feel like, even if I'd taken one of those other paths, I still would somehow end up here. And here's good.