Could Have Been Theater

You’re walking down the street, minding your own business when a young person accosts you to give you a handbill. The title says “Could Have Been Theater” and you’re intrigued enough to go to the theater and check it out.

When you get there, you learn that this is a very special sort of theater. They don’t show popular movies. In fact, the movies they show are just each for an audience of one. You pick one thing that might have been different about your life - because a choice you made, because of circumstances out of your control, because of someone else’s choice etc - and you get to see a film about how things would have unfolded had events worked out differently. Reality will not change because of the movie, but at last you’d be able to satisfy your curiosity about whether things would have been better or worse if they’d gone the other way.

There are two catches:

  1. You only get to see one movie, so choose its subject carefully.
  2. The difference must be something that realistically could have happened, so don’t waste your time on movies about things like “what if I was a supermodel instead of a nurse” unless you have the looks that would have allowed for such a possibility.

What is the subject of your movie?

My movie would be about this what-if: What if my parents had successfully produced five children, instead of producing two and suffering three miscarriages? I’ve always assumed that things would have been tougher all over with three more mouths to feed, but who knows what career choices my parents would have made in other circumstances. And would we have gotten along with these three siblings? I’d like to think we would have. I wonder too how I would be different had I been the oldest of five instead of two, and how my brother would be with two younger siblings to look up to him instead of being the baby.

If I’d sat down and filled out the financial aid paperwork for the University of Iowa instead of being a total slacker about it.

I don’t even think I’d want to see any. The idea of not having the people in my life now that I have scares me too much.

If, for my first job, I’d taken the offer by HP in San Diego instead of going for the bigger salary with Ford in Dearborn, Mich. Would I be living in a beachfront villa today with a completely different family and leaving work to go surfing?

What would have happened had I not dropped out of college my junior year? I had absolutely no direction, I still hadn’t picked a major, so I quit. But had I stuck it out, I would have been forced to pick a major- what would I have picked? Would I have figured out what I wanted to do? What would my job be today?

Or would I have graduated with a general degree in something I didn’t care about and just floated from one job to another?

Eh-that movie might depress me either way it played out. Either I’d still be a slacker or I’d be fabulously happy in a real job, which would be worse because I’d have to leave the theater and go back to my real, boring life.

Whether I should have had my daughter at 19, or had an abortion.

I don’t really want to know, because I suspect I’d be totally different, with the possibility that my “other life” would have been fantastic.

My life/marriage/etc. is marvelous now, but what if?

What if I hadn’t insisted to my parents that I attend a (crappy) private school to be with my then- best friend?

I’m guessing I’d be happier in general, but not AS happy as I’ve been at varying points. I’d just really like to know.

This one’s easy. I was adopted by the sister of my mother. When I was a teen, I discovered I had come this close (makes gesture) to being adopted by the brother of my mother. He lives in India; my aunt, who ended up adopting me, lives in the States.

I’d like to know what would have happened had I been adopted by my uncle. I’d probably be married, with 2-3 little kids by now, and possibly deeply unhappy (I never ever wanted kids).

But that’s just what I think. With a different upbringing, who knows?

“Hmmm…she’s really cute, and seems cool…but no, she’s too young for me and she’s my best friend’s kid sister. This weekend has been fun, but I’m going to break it off with her”.

No being happily married for 10 years, no light-of-my-life daughter, no push to take a chance and go after the job I’ve loved for the past decade, none of it. I’m quite certain the alternative wouldn’t be better, but I’d be interesting to see how things would’ve shaken out.

There be dragons here.

There are two possible outcomes:

  1. Your life really would have been better if that one thing had/had not happened.
    So, now you go back to your suckier life and continuously think about what could have been.
  2. Your life would have been worse.
    So, now you no longer have that one thing to hang your problems on.

As much as I would be tempted to know what might have happened if the love of my life hadn’t broken it off, it’s not worth it.

If I’d never gotten sick (I was seventeen at the time, still not better at 25). Maybe it’d give me some insight on how I should/should not try to direct my life now.

What if I had gone on that archaeological dig to the Island of Lesbos back as an undergrad? I was on the list to go, then got bumped off at the last minute by a history major (I was a bio major, but they had a slot open for a while).

Would I have changed my major after that experience? Would I have been hooked by digging? Maybe I wouldn’t have pursued music so enthusiastically then. My musical ambitions brought me to live in two countries and four different states in the US, where I got to experience many different people and ways of looking at the world.

Then again, I may have had an even more interesting life traveling around the world on digs. Who knows?

Heck, maybe on the Isle of Lesbos I would have discovered I am a lesbian several years earlier, changing the course of my love life. Hmmm…

Screw that. That has a much higher chance of being painful than of being entertaining or educational.

what if I’d have gone to Vanderbilt instead

I think mine would be a toss-up between “What if I had been offered that job in Bulgaria?” and “What if I had quit grad school to get married and move to the UK?”

I’m pretty satisfied with the life I have now, regardless, so it would be more idle curiosity than anything else.

There’s nothing I’d want to change. No decision I would not make again.