Sliding doors

I have been following the blogger girlsgonechild ever since I discovered she was a mom of twins plus two older singletons. She recently posted a sort of anti-ode to 2015 and all of its crappiness for her and her loved ones. I was particularly struck by the following excerpt which pretty well sums up, more beautifully than I ever could, what I have been feeling lately:

This was the year I came to grips with age and what it does to a person — what it looks like to change and not to . . . how the past exists as a looking glass, with sliding doors that remind us of the things we didn’t do and the places we never saw and the people we never met on backpacking trips we never took.

Ever since my two new babies came home, I have been spending a lot of time with my looking glass past and some of my sliding doors. Having three small children makes life feel so very permanent and unchangeable. And it’s not necessarily that I want things to change, so much as that I can’t help but wonder what might have been had different doors been taken, or not taken. I keep thinking back to some of those moments that seemed to mean so much to the course of my life and that still linger even after all these years, like . . . 

that boy I fell in love with my first year in college who loved my while I broke apart and then broke my heart once I was well again.

And that girl I thought I would be friends with forever except I gave her up for that boy. I know she’s out there somewhere still as lovely as ever but lost to me.

I think about when I transferred colleges, ostensibly because my father with sick, but largely because I was scared to death of not being the smart one anymore.  

About my year spent hiding at home with my mom going to therapy and trying to find my way. About the school I choose to transfer to, where I was the smart one again, where I wasn’t as challenged academically, but where I also felt so much more safe and comfortable and where I eventually met my husband senior year.

I think about how I was going to spend junior year studying French in Madagascar but ended up going to Europe instead like everyone else. About that PhD in anthropology I was going to pursue after college before fear of unemployability and law school got in the way. 

Then there’s the book I always wanted to write (narrative nonfiction, like The Devil in the White City) but which I will never have time for now that I am surrounded by three small children who need me every waking moment of every day.

I think about the poems I used to write and the friends I used to have; the boys I used to kiss around campfires while drinking bad beer and smoking cigarettes. 

I don’t think of these sliding doors with regret so much as curiosity. Where would I have gone? Who would I have known? What would I have done? Who would I have been?

Maybe I would have ended up just where I am. Maybe not. I guess getting older means coming to terms with questions that have no answers, with paths not taken and choices made, which all add up to the life that you have. 

And it’s not that you can’t change what you have, you can and you should. Change is good. But you cannot go back through those sliding doors. There’s no one there waiting for you anymore. Not even you.

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