Picture this. You’re holding a device in your hands. It looks like a generic tablet computer, with a large screen. It contains my entire life in visual form. Think ‘The Truman Show’. Right from the minute I was born, upto now. You can rewind, forward, skip, pause, play and stop at any point.
Last year, I had a conversation with someone about fate. I’ve had that same conversation with many people, but I’d never come across anyone who felt as strongly about it as he did. To paraphrase, he told me how angry it made him when people used fate or religion as an excuse or gave all credit of any human achievement to either of those things. He felt they were used as excuses to not work at things and laziness. So far, I was in complete agreement. Then he contradicted himself somewhat, by saying that “Everything happens for a reason.” I couldn’t agree because really, what does that even MEAN?
Well technically, yes, everything does happen for a reason. Either because you want it to happen, you make it happen, someone else makes it happen, or nobody does anything to stop it from happening. It’s a bit like saying “Cooking happens for eating,” or “Looking happens for seeing.” Everyone knows this. Yet, “everything happens for a reason” is said like it’s something profound, with a deeper meaning. From what I understand, the reason is positive. Like saying “Everything happens for the best.” This makes more sense as a theory, but it’s not one I agree with. What I believe in, is actions have reactions. Cause and effect. This may have something to do with the fact that I’m not religious or superstitious. I do however, respect everyone’s right to believe what they want. What I couldn’t understand about this particular conversation, was how against religion and fate a person could be, yet believe that somehow, it’s all for the greater good. To me, that makes it predestined. Not unlike fate.
I wish I’d pushed him on it. Asked more questions, shown more interest, because I find it fascinating how people can have really strong views, to the point of offending others whose beliefs don’t fit their own, yet have no qualms about changing the rules to justify their own actions. All of us are guilty of this to varying degrees, because everyone likes denial.
One of my favourite films is Back To The Future. The internet is full of blogs by nerds who’ve detailed every plot hole. I’m happy to admit that I choose to turn a blind eye to the incesty bit, because DENIAL, but even as a child, I was fascinated by the idea that every small decision you make can alter the course of your life. Sliding Doors was another film I loved for the same reason and years later, the release of the epic ‘This Delicate Thing We’ve Made’ by Darren Hayes, with its theme of time travel really appealed to me.
Back to the subject of fate, we often discussed how we’d first started talking under a bizarre set of circumstances, how we’d kept in touch against all odds. He said it was because it was meant to be. I put it down to a lot of effort on both our parts. I didn’t want to give the credit to some unknown force because it really hadn’t been easy at times. I should’ve countered that the obstacles could have been signs warning us not to go there. We exercised free will to overlook them because we wanted to. Was it for the best? I had thought so at the time, but in hindsight, I don’t think so. Last year is full of regret for me because I don’t think I learned anything new, I don’t think I gained anything positive and I know I lost a lot of the things I’d struggled to build back up over many years. At best, it was pointless. We saw what we wanted to and we did what we wanted to. His perspective was different. He overlooked the warning signs because he wanted to, but when he stopped making the effort, it happened for a reason. I stopped making the effort because I knew it wasn’t what he really wanted. It’s the only reason I ever stop with anyone. It’s never what I want. I value people I care about too much.
So back to the tablet. Imagine if we could test his theory. Press rewind. I’m 3 years old, in a hospital in Kenya and severely dehydrated. I’ve gone from being a happy chubby child, to a listless, underweight shadow of my former self. I’ve been very ill for days. They say I won’t make it. My mum, crazed with grief, has carried me out of the hospital, against the rules, and begged my dad to take me to a different one. He’s worried they could get into trouble. She’s only worried for her child. Reluctantly, he agrees. They save my life. For the best? Not according to the people who visited my parents to mourn, yes, mourn the fact that they’d had a third daughter and not a son. Maybe not according to others closer to home. But I’m here.
Press forward. I’m 19 and with my first proper boyfriend. He’s 7 years older than me. I tell him I don’t want children. He agrees. We break up 6 months later. Press forward. 12 years go by. He gets in touch on Facebook. We catch up. He now lives in Canada and has 3 children with his wife, who he’s in the process of divorcing and engaged to another woman, who is pregnant with his child. None of them would’ve existed if we’d stayed together. Was it for the best? Absolutely.
Rewind again. I’m 23. I’m at a job interview and I’m told on the spot that I’ve got the job. I’m asked to choose from 3 branches, which one I’d prefer to work at. I don’t choose the nearest, but on a whim, go for one because I like the sound of the area. I start work there and meet someone who changes my life. 6 months later, I move to another branch because I’m in love with him and he’s with someone else. We lose touch. Friends call me and make me attend a night out at my former branch. He’s there. This time we stay in touch. Almost a year after we first met, we get together. For the best? Not for the girlfriend he leaves. 3 years later, he breaks my heart. I break his too. We break each other over the course of the 3 years. For a reason? Yes, because he still changed my life. For the best? No.
Forward to just a few months later. I lose my aunt to cancer. She is only in her mid 40s. For the best? For any reason? Not for anyone who knew her. Not for her 2 teenage daughters. Not for me. I lose faith in God. There is no longer an incentive to be a good person, but still I try.
Christmas day 2004. My nephew is born. He saves my life. I am capable of feeling again. For the best reasons for everyone. He can’t do much, but he teaches me everything.
2009. Darkness again. A lot of shouting. A threat. I’m scared. Physically scared and alone. I go out for NYE, expecting it to be my last. I enjoy myself and get very drunk. I meet a stranger on the train. I talk to him more than I’ve spoken to anyone in a long time. He kisses me on the cheek and tips his hat as he gets off the train. I smile. I don’t give him my number. For the best? I’ll never know.
2012 A new person at work. I boldly introduce myself and take him out for a drink. Friends. Maybe more. We fight….2013, I meet someone else, you know the rest. For the best? No. For a reason? No. I learn the same lessons again. I end it. I say the words, but I do it for him. He leaves it upto fate. A game with a phone. The only reason? He doesn’t want to try. Always a reason. To gain power. To gain confidence. A practice run. A game. Fun. Fun, but not for everyone.
Forward, rewind. A friend cuts me off, his girlfriend doesn’t like me. The friend who survives cancer. Social media. Meeting someone who cuts all ties. Meeting someone else and becoming even closer. Meeting someone who loves me but never tells me. I don’t tell him either. We both know it. That’s enough. Rewind to 21. Sitting on the doorstep of a house in Cumbria. Staring out at a field. I’m with someone I don’t love in the right way, but it’s right. For then. Pause. Contentment.
He proposes. I break his heart. He gets revenge. I don’t care. I don’t mind. I feel guilty for not caring. He’s not very nice in the end. I don’t blame him. For a reason. What reason?
2014. I’m hard work. I don’t explain what I want. I’m difficult. I open up. I explain. I give examples. It’s ignored. It’s not easy. It’s not worth it. For a reason? No. For the best? Probably. A kindness. One expected, one not. For the best, if meant. My sister is in a car crash. She walks away with minor injuries. The only person in the family who already lived life to the fullest and was careful on the roads. Now a little scared, a little scarred. Not for the best. So what’s the reason?
Then there’s the things I didn’t do. The things I could’ve done differently. What if I had met that person, that day? What if I had moved to America as asked? What if I had held back last year and told him my suspicions face to face 2 days later when we were supposed to meet? The meeting that never took place. What if we’d had one whole day together, where I wasn’t nervous, or awkward, or scared, or upset? I was never myself. I never got the chance. Would it have made any difference to his reaction? I don’t know. Probably not. Did he do what he did for any reason? Yes. Because he could.
2012, what if he hadn’t cooled off? Would we have spent more time together? Would I have used twitter less? Would I have missed meeting someone else? What if my mum hadn’t carried me away? What if? Decisions made. Not by fate. The right decisions at the time. The only choice. By us. Our responsibility, right or wrong. Sometimes wrong. Not always for the best. Like eating this second doughnut. It could contribute to heart disease. It would certainly be for a reason. Not something profound, but just because I ate too many doughnuts. My greed.
This. Here. Now. I’m in control. I make decisions. I try. I fail. My failure, not the universe’s. Not fate’s. No unseen force. Just me and you.
So if I had a choice, I wouldn’t choose to see the future. I’d go back and make amends, knowing what I know now. I can’t do that, but you don’t need to go back. We can still make amends.
*edit* March 2015 – I read a book recently that floated the theory that our life moves up in stages like in a video game. You can’t get to the next level until you complete everything you’re supposed to do and learn from it, even if it means revisiting all the things on that level again. The book is Charlotte Street, from which I’ve stolen the text at the top of the page. I loved that idea and I realised that’s what I’ve always done. In the absence of the people I wanted to revisit, I blogged about them instead. It’s no substitute, but it helps me figure things out, revisit them, make sense of them and put them right before I move on. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone did that, in person? I’m sure its a terrifying thought for some, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I’d also recommend the book for everyone. It made me laugh out loud and think. If my blog managed that, I’d be ecstatic.
WordPress post a day prompt, One Way Street.