Have I been doing it all wrong?
In old video games, you had a set number of lives with which to accomplish your goal. If you died, it was okay, you would have another couple shots to beat the level. Video games have evolved beyond the “get to the end of the level” structure, and now some of the less linear ones allow you to play through the game in different ways. Upon finishing, or even before, you can start up a new file and take a different route, specialize in something different, choose a different class, and this second game will be a new experience. Some games allow you to play as a different character entirely, and see a different side of the story. It is the digital version of a “choose your own adventure” book. I wonder if those have fallen out of style with the rise of video games, but that is a topic for a different post.
I remember looking longingly at my high school’s course list, and imagining the different paths one could go down. On a different file, I could take sports medicine, and anatomy, and psychology, and be an expert of the human body (never mind the premise of becoming an expert via high school classes). And eventually, with a sigh, I’d remember that there is no other file. I was not going to repeat high school; the classes I chose would constitute the only path I ever went down. I do not, though it would comfort me greatly, believe in reincarnation.
I am graduating in the all too-near future, and I’m having that feeling again. A part of me thinks I would have enjoyed being an English major. Knowing what I know now, I might have chosen against journalism. But academics constitute a small slice of my what-if pie.
There are more than enough Hollywood movies predicated on the idea that college and one’s youth are the time to do whatever one wants. One’s early 20s are there, supposedly, to experiment with the vastness of life, and dig up as many experiences as possible before the consequences grow too large. I have come to the realization that I did not do this. My comfort zone is perilously small, and what little time I’ve spent outside of it! The parties I could have attended were blocked out by the shadow of my anxiety, and in that shadow, they exist forever as a Schrodinger’s Cat version of my life. Because I never went, the people I could have met and experiences I could have had are limited only by my imagination. My mind is capable of conjuring the most horrible ends to these branches (hence the anxiety), but it also produces some possibilities that I would have liked better than what actually happened.
I console myself with the thought that staying in my comfort zone might be one of my defining features; I would not, could not have been more adventurous than I was, and therefore there’s no room for regret.
But perhaps on a distant planet, Kepler 22-B or one of those faraway habitable orbs they keep finding, an alien version of myself is living out one of the paths I didn’t take. Kepler 22-B might have a resource that allows for reincarnation, extra lives in the fashion of Sonic the Hedgehog. Maybe the aliens have obtained the technology of path splitting; maybe an alien version of myself is living out all of the paths I didn’t take. Oh, to be him. In my save file, my only save file, all the science on earth knows nothing about the aliens or their technology. And that makes me sad, too.