Considering an alternate future in my 30’s

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and it’s long past time to get back to it! A lot has happened since my last post – namely, a holiday for 2.5 weeks to attend my mom’s wedding and visit with friends and family. Needless to say, it was an emotional rollercoaster. I’m going to talk about my mom’s wedding day in another post, because that was a big one for me and I ended up having an anxiety attack in the middle of the afternoon, but before I get to it, I want to touch on one other point: the vision of an alternate future.

Going home to visit family is always an emotional thing for me because I live so far away. It takes the better part of 2 days to travel there and then when I get there I usually only have a few weeks. This time I had 13 days at home, including the day I arrived and the day I left. I arrived and, as usual, was instantly pulled in all different directions. Mom wants me to do wedding stuff with her (she always wants me to do stuff with her – even just errands), dad wants to just ‘sit and chat’ (because he makes himself so busy doing chores at home, he never wants to do anything other than rest), my cousins are there for short visits (a couple days) and are asking when I can fit them in, while my friends patiently wait for me to schedule myself some time with them as well. Add games nights with my aunts/uncles, plus family barbeques, plus beach days, and in this instance, a one-day hike that I was planning before I even got there) and it gets very hectic. I’m blessed to be surrounded by so many people who love me and, to be honest, if it was any other way, I would probably be sad that my loved ones aren’t making a bigger deal about my return home! But still, it can be draining and it always ends up being a very tight schedule which is anxiety inducing in itself, and also why I never have time to see secondary friends (it sounds awful, but it’s the best description I can think of), aquaintances, or old mates from other eras of my life. This time I did.

This time I saw a friend from highschool that I no longer talk to, simply because he’s one of my best friend’s brother. Ben was my first love in highschool. We never dated, but he was my best friend in grades 9 and 10. We did everything together and he was always the person I looked forward to seeing and talking to. We had so much fun together. I left in grade 11 for a year as an exchange student and when I came back in grade 12 he told me he loved me and that he couldn’t be ‘just’ my friend, he needed more. I was devastated because I didn’t want more, I wanted things back to the way they were. And that’s where we parted ways really. I saw him at school and stuff, but it was never the same and we really didn’t hang out at all after that. But this time I was home, I went with my friend to pick up her kids at ‘uncle Ben’s’ house and I got to see him for the first time in about 10 years. I saw him in his backyard, with his wife (whom I knew about but was just meeting for the first time) and neices and nephews around him and for a brief flash I thought ‘wow, this could have been my life’.

I didn’t hug him to say hello and I stood there awkwardly for a while because I didn’t trust myself to know what to do. This is a rare occurrence for me. Despite some difficulty at times, I seem to always know what to do and I’ve been thrown into awkward spots before and managed them far better than this encounter. I watched him walk across the grass and laugh at something I had said to his nephew and as soon as I heard his laugh it was like time stopped and I was ‘home’. I was frozen. It was surreal and quite emotional for me. I managed to play it off well enough but I recognised that in the 20 minutes I spent with him while his wife and my friend packed up the kids, I was babbling some times, staring at him awkwardly at other times, and my palms had gotten all sticky and sweaty. I was so nervous it was like I was being interrogated in court and yet I was talking to someone who used to be my best friend. I couldn’t believe it. Twenty minutes with him and I was so affected that I started to wonder if I’d made the right choices all the way back to grade 12, when I told him I couldn’t be with him.

Ultimately I know I made the right choice, and seeing him and further considering these things solidified that, but at the time, it was a whirlwind of considerations. I instantly got jealous of his wife thinking ‘that should have been me!’. His dog kept coming up to me and I smuggly thought ‘even the dog likes me’, which I know is ridiculous. I looked around at his manicured backyard and thought how cosy it would be to set up a lawn chair and read my book in the sun next to the back corner of the garage. I took in the children’s activities that were set out for my friend’s kids and thought how nice it would be to be taking part in them and watching these kids grow up. And, oddly enough, he has a rickshaw and he takes the kids for rides in it so when I saw that, all I could think was that I could be in that rickshaw! I could be sitting with the littlest ones while Ben pretended his nephew was helping to pull us around. And in this little image we were in a park and we were all laughing happily and everything was as it would be in a movie. And that’s when I realised that I was imagining a movie scene, just with us as the characters, and if I’m being totally honest, in this vision I’d ‘stolen’ my friends kids and imagined them as my own. I thought to myself ‘does this mean I want this?’ ‘does this mean that I’m unhappy in my choice of life?’ ‘does this mean I… made a mistake?’.

I was quite conflicted after this little visit and for a few hours I was zoning out imagining a different future and what it would have looked like for me to have said yes to Ben all those years ago. And yes, I know he was just asking to be my boyfriend, not my husband, but had I said yes, we would’ve ended up together. We were great together and he loved me as much as I did him, but that was never going to be my life. Even then, as hard as it was to say no, I knew that my life was never going to turn out like that. I’ve always reached for the stars and would never have contented myself to a life in my hometown with my highschool sweetheart, simply because I would always have wondered what else is out there for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve questioned many of my decisions, particularly the ones that were the scariest and required the most change, but somethings I just knew I’d done right. This was one of them. As I continued to mull over this movie-scene alternate future I had envisioned, I became content with the fact that I made the right choice. It makes me smile to think of Ben, his wife and the kids all playing together, but it doesn’t make me sad to think that I’m not there. I’m not missing out on any potential future of mine, I’m simply daydreaming about a future that could never be – which is why it seems so perfectly movie-esk. I figure it’s the same as imagining my future with a movie star or the cute guy I pass on my way to work in the morning… someone that I don’t know and can imagine whatever scenario I want to. It’s a dream, it’s a fantasy, but it would never be reality.

The reality of my life is the one I’m living. I’ve travelled across the world, I’ve seen and experienced more than most people will in their lifetimes, and I’m blessed in knowing that I’m happy with all the decisions that have brought me here, for good or bad, because without any of them, I wouldn’t ever have made it to this exact moment. And, although I’m having a particularly good day (which has been a bit rare in the last few months), I can see that my life suits me better than any alternate life I could ever have imagined for myself.

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