“You know it’s not the same as it was”, croons Harry Styles plaintively in his recent song. And metamorphosing into a comforting earworm, the song, layered with vintage shades of nostalgia and what seems like a tribute to the bygone times, literally and figuratively, quite unprepared, teleports me into a labyrinth, brown and purple, of my ponderings. Vestiges of events half of what they were, the never-trodden-upon paths, the never-opened-doors, and flashes of where would life have led me to had they been confidently pursued, questioningly peek at me. A raft of ‘what-ifs’ rocks upon the choppy rushing waters through a redolent ravine that the labyrinth leads to. And staring upon the vastness confined inside my head, I faintly discern the distant shadow of another being staring at me. The image takes shape and there, across the ravine, across the gorge, stands my very own reflection, my present self perhaps telling me that I am precisely where I ought to be, that the what-ifs would undoubtedly lead me to where I am at this very moment! I gasp, smile, wave at own reflection and he follows suit, nodding, and little by little vanishes. The song ends and fades the vision.
I have often heard, read, and even tried to believe that life would always bring you ‘back’ to where you are. Were you to take the other, what may seem now, a much more enticing bend on the road, were you to open the other door, or were you to take the red pill over the blue one, you would magically, mysteriously, surreptitiously find yourself where you belong now, in the present!
An article published in The New Yorker, “What If You Could Do It All Over Again”, which I read recently, dwells on the unled lives, the unled dreams, and our actual present lives. The author, citing several philosophers, informs why the unled lives may be even necessary and required and allows the reader to determine that invisible boundary between dreaming of what-ifs and joyously embrace the what-is.
I, for one, keep imagining, silly as it may sound to many, on what if I had studied harder, gotten into a different university, pursued a doctorate? My partner, solemnly, declares that I would be in a similar situation, perhaps dreaming, inherently, of other what ifs! A friend and I were discussing our innate desire to compare our lives with that of others, of lives that we think we could have had, and pitying our present stance, miss out, we declare, momentarily the happiness and joys that we are surrounded with. The human mind, we conclude, sighing and leaving that thread of emotion hanging: labyrinths that we keep stepping onto, knowing, refusing, that we are just where we are.
At the same point of time, I find it rather arduous to separate wishful thinking and dreaming from the reality that I have lived, the actuality that has made me who I am this very day. And just as I find myself, yet again, slipping through the mossy walls of my labyrinth of thoughts, Wisdom, quietly whispers, “Dream on. Dream on about what you can do but do not dwell on what you could have done. Time cannot be turned around, but time ought to be a compatriot whom you walk along with.”
Acquiescing I hit the repeat button, promising to be a perpetual dreamer of what is to come, a proponent of my what-is; I tap my feet to the drumbeats, float with the melody, breathe in the positive, piney earthy smell of dreams, and solemnly remind myself that everything that led up to this very moment, every unpursued dream, every unled life is just perfect and that it ought to be joyously allowed to be as it was.