Alternate facts got me thinking about what MY life could’ve looked like had it gone in a different direction. There’s plenty of books and movies that pose this topic, but when you stop to think about it, the answers you find reveal a lot about your deepest strengths and desires.
I am perfectly happy in my objective reality. I found the love of my life at a young age, and he still makes me laugh every day. I have these three incredible kids who are energetic and bright and empathetic. I have a strong work ethic and a career that affords me the means to support them. But, full disclosure, being a Wall Street trader is not my life’s calling.
I play this game with myself sometimes: What would it be like to have that job? And it’s not what you think. I’m not talking about glamorous jobs like fashion designer or actress or politician. It’s really the most mundane careers like mail carrier, security guard, train conductor. I wonder about what it would be like in that person’s shoes. Would I be less stressed all the time? Would I be more fulfilled? Would my job be a smaller piece of the pie that represents how I define who I am? It’s a vicious form of self-torture quite frankly, and my acknowledged oversimplification of a simplified life usually jars me back into reality.
But seriously, if I didn’t passively follow the crumbs that led me down this path (to a competitive university, to a high intensity financial job) where might I have chosen to go? The most obvious answer is: a writer. A novelist, a playwright, a travel blogger. Whatever I could do that would mean eyeballs reading and digesting my words with pleasure. That would make my child self so proud!
There are other things too. I never took Psych in college, but I think I have a pretty good handle on this human nature and judge of character thing. Ask my friends- I give darn good advice! Marriage, kids, career, any kind of drama, and I can help you out of your mess with honest feedback and without judgment or condemnation. I have enough mental illness and familial instability in my personal history to use as a catalog of what not to do and how to manage the crazy people in your life (hint: don’t engage!).
I could own a camp. When I think of my best self, my proudest achievements, it was my high school summers spent as a day camp counselor. Yes there was a social element that made it extra fun (and yes I met Gull there) but motivating and inspiring young girls to try new sports, make new friends, go the extra mile, was empowering and felt like I was leaving a mark on something important. That character development stuff is the real deal!
When I get too lost in these fantasies, when the game stops being fun, I reach out and grasp desperately onto that lever called gratitude. I am not those things that I could’ve been. But it doesn’t mean that it still cannot be. It doesn’t preclude that in some ways I actually am a writer, a therapist, a motivator every day of my life. I don’t need to daydream about in another life because I’m not done with the one I’ve got. There may not be do overs after elementary school recess, but there is a whole world of do betters, and starting with this blog, I’m making the alternate facts a reality!