My Imaginary Life
Irony is humanity’s oldest adversary. There have always been original obstacles of course, like disease, storms, war, the typical man vs. man, man vs. nature, and man vs. society conflicts. But just think for a minute about all of the obstacles you’ve encountered in your life, the things that truly shaped the person you are today. Even eons ago, if the first cavemen, whose only obstacles were survival and procreation, were genuinely prepared for anything that could happen to them, the world would be a vastly different place (maybe for the better, maybe not). If human beings were equipped with the tools or knowledge to be prepared for any obstacle in their path, there would be no conflict, ever.
Now, fast-forward to present time. The more I’ve studied life, i.e. reading books, watching documentaries, writing memoirs, living, the more I’ve come to understand that humanity’s ultimate goal is to reach equilibrium. Our brains look for patterns, shortcuts, decisions that make life as stable and streamlined as possible. I suppose this isn’t the most terrible characteristic we can be afflicted with. The problem is that it is completely at odds with what happens in the world around us.
Nature’s ultimate end is entropy. Time races the laws of the universe from perfect equilibrium, to chaos. It’s not anything we can control. It’s just physics. How does this translate into anything that matters in a single lifetime? Think of how parents teach children. Everything I’ve ever heard from someone who is a parent (a caring and invested one at least) is that their efforts were all to prepare their children for the world. Parents, even non-human ones, want to give their offspring every opportunity to survive in the world once we leave their care. My parents have constantly said, “I wish we would have taught you this,” or “Maybe we should have done this better,” when I talk to them about the events in my memoir project. But it’s not their fault. It’s nobody’s fault really.
No one can be prepared for life, and that is because we can never foresee the forces outside of our control (whether that be predetermined events or random occurrences). The greatest gift writing about my own life has given me is the ability to revisit how I thought or wanted my life to turn out, and what actually happened. I think the phrase goes, man makes plans and God laughs.
It’s true that I am writing about things that happened when I was between the ages of 14-20. These ages are often seen as naive and untested in the ways of the world. But I haven’t seen that inherent human flaw change across any age in the people who surround me. It’s human nature to have hopes and dreams for the future, for how we want our lives to turn out. Everyone wants to be successful, and have success come easy. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone wants to have their time on Earth leave some kind of legacy. Everyone wants to live a fulfilling life. But that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes people never reach their potential. Not everyone finds their soulmate. Some unfortunate souls live short lives. Some people never have children.
There are multitudes of reasons for why things don’t turn out the way we plan, but it’s the things we have to overcome that make us individuals, and oddly connect us to the rest of humanity at the same time. I often wonder if life were easy, would it even be worth living? And I think about what my life would be like if it ended up the way I dreamed it would when I was 15, what if certain events hadn’t happened?
Dreaming about what my life should be like in the future, to me, is almost as futile as wondering “What if?” That statement, on the surface, can seem extremely nihilistic, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have hope. What writing stories of myself and others have taught me is that living in the future or the past is the fastest way to becoming bitter.
I still have plans. There are things I am still actively participating in to go in the direction that I want with my life. I date. I work. I make decisions. I study. But what I try and concentrate on are the things that are happening to me now. For example, at this very second I am writing, my favorite thing in the entire world. I just ate lunch, so I am not going hungry. My boyfriend who loves me very much sits less than ten feet away from me. My heart is beating. Do I dream one day that I will be a prestigious, published writer, that I will get married and have children, that I will have enough money to eat something other than eggs and toast? Of course. But I am no longer stuck in the mindset that there is a single path that will get me to the future I imagine. Perhaps not worrying about how exactly to get to the things I want is the only way to survive the unexpected things that could happen between now and then.
The biggest outcome of an encounter with a conflict is usually an end of innocence. An individual’s eyes are opened to the harsh and unpredictable ways of the world and are forever changed. Irony, the opposite of what you expect to happen, changes a person, but perhaps innocence isn’t really lost. One of the aspects of innocence is the capacity to imagine and be open to all possibilities. Maybe unexpected conflicts are just events to remind us of the innocence we thought we lost.