All this talk about the Olympics has got me pondering.
I was distracted by that video of the fetching young athlete joyously dancing, and I thought back to how I would never have had a chance with her in high school. Something similar did happen when I was 15 or so: we went out west to visit my cousins, and their neighbours included a young woman who was competing in gymnastics. There was a tramppoline in the neighbours’ yard that i very much wanted to try, but I was so intimidated by her that I never even introduced myself.
Anyways, I got to thinking. What would have happened that week if I’d been a self-confident and reasonably-fit teenager instead of the awkward and desperately-unattractive one I was? What if all that crap in my brain that continuously undermined me wasn’t there?
But the implications of a optimal self go beyond one chance meeting. Teenager hood is where we start choosing directions and mixing in the world on our own. What choices would I have made if I’d had a greater sense of who I really was?
So let’s contemplate the hypothetical. You’re born the same person you are in real life, in the same general circumstances, but you get the kind of help at every point in your life that you need: everything from social training to orthodontia to a really good fitness coach.
For the moment, I’m imagining things like extra coaching supplied through the structures I had in my real past. I’m honestly not sure how much to allow of larger hypothetical changes, like great wealth or being born healthier. Food for discussion, I guess.
I think the biggest change for the Optimal Me, compared to my current life, would have been a gradual divergence through high school, until I went in the direction of art instead of architecture. In real life, I was aware of it, but I had no idea how the social aspects of being a working artist might be, so I went in a direction that I thought would lead towards a job.
In the hypothetical, I would be in better physical shape, and would have more social facility. So I would have had experience in meeting and greeting and making social connections, and I could have seen a hint of a way forward that would support me as an artist.
And after high school, I would have gone to OCAD (art school) rather than Waterloo… which would have resulted in my meeting a completely-different set of people from then on.
I think that better physical fitness would have meant that, ultimately, I would have gotten more done in my life. I would have finished cartoons that in my real life sat half-done for years. I would have figured out ways to travel, even in high school, rather than existing as I did in real life in a curiously-blinkered worldview in which I never even thought that things might have been possible.
And of course, I would have had the kinds of relationships that have eluded me in real life. Mostly with completely-different people, of course, not the ones I missed in real life.
So… what would your Optimal Self be like, and how would being it have changed things growing up?