Seeing thousands of selves, thousands of possibilities for the future, gives one a sense of indignance. Why should they already have it? Why do I have to strive so hard for the mere chance of being one of those? Well, that’s what life is. It’s the journey from here to there, from the now to the future that we so strongly desire that we fantasize about it daily.
For some of us, there are definite steps, a clearly demarcated path to follow inch by inch and foot by foot. For others, maybe a vast expanse of potential into which we charge blindly with the thought that, given time and the whittling down of possibilities by time and our other actions, we’ll find that one true course. Trial and error, endless experimentation.
And then there are the rest of us, who have a goal that is, like the latter’s path, amorphous. There’s perhaps a general feeling, maybe a few safety cones to help mark out part of the way, but we don’t know, jumping in, what we’re even aiming for. So we go for it and, odds are, we’re going to be disappointed and put down with frightening regularity. We have to steel ourselves against that, get used to the idea that it’s going to go poorly before it ends well. And it may never reach that optimal finishing point. That just doesn’t always happen.
The journey’s the key, though. It’s not just where we’re going or how we get there, but the confluence of the two, driving us through the discouragements, the detractors and those who’d trod upon us.
As I sit here, as I write this, listening to my iTunes and cracking my fingers every so often, pulling out my new license to stare at the unfamiliar self smiling back, and fantasizing about the cheesesteaks we’re having for dinner, the games I’ll be playing afterward with close friends, I find my thoughts drifting to the would, the should and the could. What would I be doing if I could? Most importantly, what should I do to get there?
There’s a pithy saying out there that you should never say “would’ve, could’ve should’ve,” but it’s aimed at the past. Don’t look at what’s happened and what if about things going differently. Accept what’s happened and move forward, right? So what should you do now, knowing the past?
I’m chewing my fingernails, wearing the keratin down to stubs and scratching my back, uncomfortable with the way the skin, once hidden under the nails, feels when wet. It’s vulnerable. Light traces in through the window, catches arcing branches on a tree outside my window, drooping leaves thick and bright with chlorophyll. They move, prey to the wind, and jostle one another without end. Thoughts hop elsewhere, to Africa, people and places I’ve never seen. There’s an image of dirt roads, of sand and oppressive humidity, of bright yellow sunsets and dark-skinned people going about their days, paying me little mind. Someday, I’ll have to replace the image with the reality, make room for verdant stretches where they lay and pavement in the more densely populated areas.