Forks in road.jpg

People are by and large are consumed by the idea of destiny, of events being pre-planned and pre-arranged. The idea that everything that happens to you happens for a reason, or was set up. Perhaps as we seized control of our various environments, imposed our sense of order upon them, it began to seem like a pretty good idea that someone, somewhere had control of us as well, and we were each merely living our lives in accordance with that plan. Thus, every event is viewed as part of that plan, and every person is a work in progress to some degree or the other. It is a nice idea, isn’t it? I mean, you wouldn’t build a house and leave the roof off, that’s crazy, that’s not a complete plan.

Which is what makes it odd that we are also quite obsessed with the choices we didn’t make. If life conforms to a set plan, every choice you have made along the way is part of that plan. It makes no sense to obsess over the numerous roads not taken, or to look back on your life and regret the things you didn’t do. Everything you did conformed to the plan, right? Or is it part of the plan that you would beat yourself up day after day for zagging when you could have zigged? A house with no roof doesn’t know that it isn’t complete, that’s for observers to point out to the builder, or occupant, as the case may be. What if, instead of life being part of a set plan, or forks in the road you missed, where you are right now is simply the sum total of all the choices you made, informed and otherwise? Does that make life less worthy of living? Sometimes, the path less travelled is less travelled for a reason. There might be a bear waiting at the end of it, and ain’t nobody giving you an Oscar for getting mauled by one of them unless your name is Leonardo.

Let’s say you meet someone, and you fall for her about as hard as it is possible for a human being to fall. I’m talking Superman flying Doomsday from outer space into the ground hard. The impact rattled buildings in Tokyo. When you look back on the day you met, it was a series of choices you made which led to you being in that spot at that exact time, standing in front of her at the cinema and trying desperately to get some coherent human speech to spill forth from your lips. Like, say you’d already seen one movie, and then, looking at the time, decided that you could just about make it to another and so dashed to get a ticket (your life is so hard core, dude), and there she was, standing in the popcorn line. Now, perhaps the plan was structured in a way that you would see that movie on the list and go, “Meh, it’s not like I have anything else to do” because your options were see the movie or go home and cry. Or she could have come in an hour earlier and been seeing another movie, and you would never have met her. Or you could have come out of your movie five minutes later and never have met her. Or you could have come in an hour later than you did and never met her. All those are intangibles, and it would be pointless to obsess over them, but would you say it was fate?

Of course, things could go spectacularly wrong, as they often do. And you would one day wake up and kick yourself in the head for not just going home after that first movie, or spending an extra five minutes browsing in the shops, or a million and five other things, but it wouldn’t change the fact that one day, you met this amazing person, and you would probably do it all again in the exact same manner. Except for the part where you suffered the world’s most spectacularly mistimed case of lockjaw. Oh, she bailed you out, she spoke first. Which means, naturally, that if she ever marries you, you will have no claim upon the family pants.

And, no matter what happens, whether you crash and burn or live happily ever after, you will always be glad that one day you decided to see two movies in a row and there she was. Even if this doesn’t work out and your world becomes an unending mosaic of pain and loss and all those other wonderful things. Even if it never got off the ground, she never felt the same way about you, or she falls in love with someone else. You will hate that it happened, but at the end of the day, it’s another sheet on the roof, but it’s your sheet, and it’s your roof, and you’re responsible for how it turns out.

I guess the bottom line is no matter what you do, you must remember what the lady said: at the end of every fork, there’s a cliff.