Things Could Be Different


I often find myself reflecting on what my life would be like if I had made different choices. What if I had gone to university in England? What if I had gone to Spain after college? What if I was in law school right now? And then there are the things I had no choice in: What if I was born filthy rich? What if I was born in abject poverty? All of these questions always lead me to asking the same thing: Would I be the same person?

The simple answer is: probably not. We are our experiences after all. And I want to experience as much as possible. I want to travel as much as I can. But I want to achieve things – write important things, create important things, and make important differences. I’ve always felt my life would be a waste if I hadn’t truly accomplished making a difference to somebody or to something. And sometimes I am inspired, sometimes I begin to experience the mania of someone on the verge of something great. And then I just stop. I stop and become the personification of Ingrid Michaelson’s words, “I want to change the world instead I sleep.” Literally, I just fall asleep, and usually do so, wanting things to be different.

How do we become the difference that we want to experience? Do we just pack up and leave to go to places that inspire us? Do we work and work and work until something eventually happens? Because I know better than anyone that while passing through different places, gives you more enlightenment than most, it doesn’t necessitate the transformation you seek. And hard work, while important and commendable, does not guarantee anything except maybe the satisfaction that one has worked hard.

Life can be difficult even when everything is perfectly fine. It seems that there is no life that is not ultimately chained by the repressive nature of society or the constraints of one’s mind. We indeed have it within us to change. But how do we embody the strength and perseverance within ourselves to transform into what we want to become? Is it a matter of dreaming? Is it a matter of doing? Is it both? Wanting to change is one thing; changing is another. Wanting things to be different is one thing; making the difference is another.

Sometimes, I think to myself: What if I just left? What if I left this city? Forgot about my plans, my friends, my work obligations and life obligations, and just got up and left? Because sometimes, knowing that things could be different and that I have the power to make things different; and yet I stay here, basking ultimately in the aura of comfort makes me feel empty. It makes me feel average and normal and ordinary. I want a simple life but not an ordinary one. Or maybe again, I am telling myself that I want simplicity because that is what I am supposed to want.

But what if I want exhilarating? What if I want exuberant and difficult wrapped in the frustrations of passion? What if I want to be comfortable and uncomfortable at the same time? What if I just want something spontaneous to happen to me that will cause things to change; that will cause me to change? Or am I to sit here and do all the right things and want the right things and hope and pray that all of this will eventually lead to things being different?

I am what I am because of my choices. All of us are. We pretend that we don’t have a lot of choices. But we do. We’ll have more than we’ll ever know. Some things are accidents of birth, however. Things would have been different if I had been born abjectly poor or filthy rich. Everything would have been different. But I can’t help but feel that this person; this person who wants more, who wants different, who wants better, would still be there. Because I see this person in everyone; I see this person everywhere I go. Things could have been different. But more importantly, because all of us are this person, we have to live our lives as if things can be different. And because we don’t know the future, all we’re left with is the uncertainty of trying.

So try to be different.

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image – Nicki Varkevisser