How many people at thirty, fourty, fifty, can say to themselves, this is the life I planned on having?
I bet I could find a few. People who knew. I’m going to be a scientist. I want to play violin in an orchestra. Some people feel a calling in life, and answer it, and have the luck, and the gift.
Most of us just sort of wind up where we are, washed onto some beach like semi-sentient flotsom. We know we made some choices there at some point, we chose that fork, not the other. Yet so much is random eddies, currents we can’t control or choose not to control.
I can remember, as a child, trying to picture an adult me. I can recall the confusion; I’d look at my father, a college professor, a dapper academic in khakis and madras shirts, tweed coats with elbow patches, smoking a pipe. He was my frame of reference for grown-up. So I’d try to picture myself, as he was, and I could not.
I have not planned very much of my life; yet, there were certain images I held of how life should be. What I would do, where I would go. Where I would live, and how.
I wish I had, at some point in my youth, seen the value in keeping a journal. I’d like to look back now and see what, when, where. I’d like to see how I pictured my adult self when I was still a teen.
I know I never would have pictured kilts, or a shaved head. I never would have imagined, when I was 13, being heavily tattooed, though without question I pictured having a tattoo.
But I had certain images that I can recall. No kids, I was certain of that. Marriage? Unlikely, for I did not believe in the concept. On better days, I pictured myself with a harem, or at least a number of concurrent ladies. Growing up in the sixties and seventies, this did not seem an impossible or even unlikely situation, so I figured, I want that, I’ll have it.
On worse days, I would picture myself alone, or dead. Usually dead in some violent way, a martyr to the cause when we over-threw the man and set the people free.
It’s funny to look back. I didn’t picture being in the upper economic classes. I didn’t picture working for big corporations. I didn’t picture having kids. I didn’t picture sitting in front of a computer all day.
I never imagined myself a writer.
I did picture motorcycles, however. And jeeps. So there I’m spot on in both cases. We can’t miss on all of them.
I can recall my father being my age; 43. I can recall wondering where and how and who I’d be around the same age. What I’d be doing in the year 2000. So little of it today bears any resemblance to what I imagined.
Better? Worse? Maybe just different.
In any life, there are points where you wish you could go back and re-make a choice. Left path instead of right, go when you didn’t, don’t when you did. Fight when you gave in, give in where you chose to make a stand. Some of these stand out, clear. Others less so, where a tiny change might alter the equation of chance and render a life much different than we see today.
I know, though, that there are choices I’d make differently if I had them to do again, if life could be played over from a save point as with a video game.
We can’t go back. No re-set button. Life rarely lets you take a mulligan.
But shouldn’t we sometimes be able to say, sorry, that’s not what I meant to do, can we start over? Shouldn’t we, now and then, get a do-over?
The thing is, though, that given a chance to correct, we’ll almost always just find a new way to make a mistake. Life’s like that, sometimes. If the universe is driven by any consciousness, it’s that of some wicked prankster, some sick, evil bastard who laughs at us when we slip and fall.
One has to laugh with him.