The other day, a friend of mine posted a caricature on Facebook that presented one’s life’s plans as a straight diagonal in a graph. Have you ever wondered where you would be if, at some point in your life, there hadn’t been that certain event or that certain person which or who twisted it to where you are now? My reality would look like that caricature’s second part – a line that imitates the flight of an air-filled balloon let go. Prrrr … all over the place.
“All over the place” usually sounds pretty horrible, doesn’t it? Like a nitwit who doesn’t know why they are doing what. But doesn’t it also sound kind of adventurous? And why would one want to plan everything through to the extent that nothing offers any surprise anymore?
As a child, I loved stories, and only today do I realize how much of a story-teller I was even back then. Using the archetypes for telling tales. Using memory for fitting in real things. Or remembering in detail what I had just experienced. My family was one of story-tellers. We sat reminiscing our joint hikes and travels, celebrations and life journeys. We sat reading to each other while the rest was busying themselves with something else. My life dream was to become a writer.
Of course, a child’s dreams are also shaped by what comes along later. And these are some of my “what ifs” back in the day: What if I had been born 150 years earlier and been a pioneer woman such as in “The Winthrops”? What if I could learn as many languages as my brain could possibly hold? What if my voice was capable making me a professional singer? What if I became a professor for literature at a German university? What if I got married? What if I became a well-known journalist?
Plenty of doors have been slammed into my face along the way. There were people who wanted to make money of me, who disdained my potential because I am a woman, who told me I couldn’t do something or I shouldn’t do something. And I’m pretty sure that similar has happened to you, no matter what or who you are. You can make your plans, but nobody is an island. There are bends in the road of everybody’s life. Fortunately, most are only bends, not total breaks. Because our “what ifs” have the power of magic. They keep us dreaming and going.
My wondrous life story has taken me to the end of the Oregon trail, reading in almost as many languages as I once learned, singing for my and sometimes even other people’s entertainment, married, a fairly well-known journalist in my niche back in the day, now a writer in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by amazing author and reader friends. With still a number of “what ifs” under the belt.
What if I could give people something to ponder, even to look forward to once a week? What if I could travel around the country and share that in a column? What if I could touch somebody once a day and make them smile? What if I tried a new recipe, read a new book, learned about something new? What if?
We are used to the big, ugly “what ifs” in the news that tell us about a bigger picture that is sometimes scary. What if we tried to do our little things in order to stop the big, bad “what ifs” or to slow them down? To counter them? What if we were more curious instead of hellbent on being right with our own point of view? What if we smiled instead of frowned? What if we let somebody change the lane in front of us or take a seat while we will be standing? What if we turn the “have-tos” into opportunities, the “must-haves” into foregoables, the “you can’ts” into a leisure zone?
It’s another weekend. Have you made any plans yet? What if …