It is easy to dwell on regret and imagine a life we aren’t living, imagining that every decision we ever made has determined the path of our lives. What if I had continued dancing and became a performer? If I paid attention in school, what I have become an academic or a scientist? The plain truth is that nobody will ever know. One of life’s great unanswerable questions will always be, “what if?”.
Which in turn, brings me to what has been playing on my mind since I read a philosophical novel that changed my life. This magical book talks about the thought experiment called Schrödinger’s Cat, invented by quantum mechanics co-founder Erwin Schrödinger (yes, not only am I a Harry Potter wizarding-world fan, I also enjoy theoretical psychics thanks to The Big Bang Theory and other important literature). Ultimately, Schrödinger’s work puts my question of “what if?” into scientific theory. I won’t even attempt to explain it in my own words, so click play below to experience where my head is at right now.
So, my overflowing brain has been contemplating this theory and the question of “what if?” for about a week now – fun, right? Upon reading this life changing book, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, I had a lot of questions I wanted answered about my life. The theoretical basis of this book is that there could be an infinite number of lives we are living right now, that were born from every big and small decision you have ever made in this life – the one where you have happened upon this article. There could be a different life in another universe where I decided I liked swimming, for example, and became an Olympic champion, or continued playing music and became a professional artist. That one small decision could change the entire course of my life, meaning there is in fact an infinite number of possibilities out there.
The overarching message in Matt Haig’s novel is that you will never comprehend what could have been, because although the theory of an infinite number of realities sounds intriguing, this is the only life we are given, and it is absolutely worth living. The beauty of this one life is that we have all the time we need to find what brings us joy, to be kind to every person we meet, to have faith no matter what life throws at you, and there is always the potential for you to be more. You are not defined by the choices you did or did not make, but rather by who you are and who you have the power to be.
Much like the cat in Schrödinger’s theory, in the end we can only ever be one of two things – alive or dead, we cannot be both alive and dead simultaneously. Which means we have to spend however long we have in this life with our loved ones, doing things we love and always being kind to others and this planet we call home. I often get caught up in the what if’s and what could be’s of my life, feeling like I should be doing more, becoming more successful. I have recently learned that success can mean a multitude of things – possibly a powerful career rising the ranks, but perhaps a life where I am content within myself, am surrounded by those I love and floating in a sea of literature. That sounds like a beautiful life to me.
Thank you for joining this spiralled thought process with me, and I hope your 2021 is full of infinite possibilities.
Until next time,
Excerpt from The Midnight Library:
“It is easy to mourn the lives we aren’t living. Easy to wish we’d developed other talents, said yes to different offers. Easy to wish we’d worked harder, loved better, handled our finances more astutely, been more popular, stayed in the band, gone to Australia, said yes to the coffee or done more bloody yoga. It takes no effort to miss the friends we didn’t make and the work we didn’t do, the people we didn’t marry and the children we didn’t have. It is not difficult to see yourself through the lens of other people, and to wish you were all the different kaleidoscopic versions of you they wanted you to be. It is easy to regret, and keep regretting, ad infinitum, until our time runs out. But it is not lives we regret not living that are the real problem. It is the regret itself. It’s the regret that makes us shrivel and wither and feel like our own and other people’s worst enemy.
We can’t tell if any of those other versions would have been better or worse. Those lives are happening, it is true, but you are happening as well, and that is the happening we have to focus on.”