(Me looking artistically and thoughtfully at you as you read this highly unexpected post.)
This past week I returned to my homeland for our yearly “family reunion” (made difficult because my actual family is now permanently de-reunioned and the family that reunions all works in the same law office, making the whole thing a touch odd). I’ve found that it’s important to only return home when you’re feeling good about yourself, otherwise you get caught in the trap of revealing that all your independent decisions since leaving home have been poor and your life has turned out mediocre at best. This is ill-advised because, as I learned painfully a few years back, it takes years to regain your “responsible overachiever” status. (I was fat, miserable, and had bleached my hair white. Rather than look like the individualistic femme sophisticate that I was hoping for, I looked like a fat, miserable, confused girl… with white hair.)
The trip was mercifully uneventful and gave me a lot of time to step back from the life that I have created in Boston and compare it (in a healthy way) with all the “what ifs” that I have avoided for so long. One thing about me as a person is that I spend an inordinate amount of my free (and sometimes not so free) time pondering intensely. I think about work not only as it applies to my colleagues and clients, but also how it manifests itself in a broader sense: is what I do important to my overall understanding of life? It’s some heavy stuff, but it is what makes me uniquely capable of doing what I do. (Without killing myself.)
With this philosophical pondering comes the inevitable questions about life: the what ifs. For the most part I avoid what ifs because I have experienced how negatively they can influence your life. I’ve pondered silly what ifs before: what would I look like right now if I snapped my fingers and selectively removed all Snickers candy bars from my consumption history? What about Triscuits? (Who knows, maybe Triscuits have been a key contributor to my waistline all those years…) It’s fun, but more importantly, it’s not dangerous. Dangerous is when you start playing out the what ifs that can only end poorly. What if i would have said yes to him? What if I would have moved there? What if I would have said no?
These what ifs will (excuse my language) fuck you up. They (excuse me again) fuck you up because we as human beings are drawn to some notion that the things that didnt happen were far better and more exciting than the things that did.
I used to %#$ with myself by imagining what would happen if I didnt get married. What if I would have graduated from college, moved to New York, and lived the fabulous single life? When I imagine this scenario I am fabulous, laden with cash and opportunity, and called upon like a more sophisticated Carrie Bradshaw. Never in all my what iffing days have I ever imagined my single life in New York City as a drag. Not once did I think that I would be working as an $8/hr admin filing paperwork all day and then taking the train to my hovel in Queens. I never consider that I’d still be wondering who I was or what I wanted to be or how to become something. I don’t think about the incredible opportunities that have been presented to me here, or the relationships that I would never have made.
That girl in my what if is conveniently not me.
Because the iCaroline cannot entertain that what if because it never could have happened. I couldn’t have moved to New York City and lived the fabulous single life because I was never fabulous as a single person. I was awkward. The worst parts of my personality were on display when I was single. These days I can hide my vulnerability behind the courage that I get from the hubs. Even when I’m not good, he is. He is the half of myself that I know is right. When I was a single gal there was no half that I trusted was right. It’s no wonder I jumped from pre-med to philosophy to advertising to writing. When I met the hubs, that otherwise vulnerable girl had the courage to finally say, “this is who I am.”
And he said, “okay.”
That was all I needed. It doesn’t make me weak or sad, it makes me human. But it also gives me a reason to believe that what ifs are a dark and scary corner of the world. You, reading this, need to know that there is no such thing as a what if. The only possible existence for you is the one you have now. There are a million possiblities for the future– whatever you decide– but where you ended up –where you are now–is the product of the only possible decision: the one you made.
So I find myself at a cross roads with the Half Truth of a Whole life. The blog that I started three years ago was intended to be a place holder, a thought keeper for the many ideas that I would gather until I had the time (or the courage) to write a book. But then something strange happened: I started writing for someone other than myself. I heard the comments, watched the reactions, and what I learned was that people expected me to be funny. Humor was never intended to be the sum of the parts; humor was a device to express profound pain, understanding, joy, or concern. I am not a humorist. I am an essayist. I am a writer of things truthful and painful. When humor can help me express myself it is a necessary part of my writing, but it was never meant to be my writing.
So for my last labored what if: what if I would have remained true to myself and told the stories I wanted to tell in the way I wanted to tell them?
If I would have done that, would I be done with my book today?
No, because I made the only decision possible. The one I made.
But the possibilities for the future exist only if I decide to return to the place that this blog started all those years ago.
This blog is the Half Truth of a Whole Life. It’s the stories of my family, the truth about myself, and the beginning of what I hope is a long story about life and the people that make it worth it.
I hope that’s enough.