“I’ll never know and neither will you about the life you didn’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
- Cheryl Strayed
One of the greatest mysteries of the human condition is the innate and insatiable pull each of us has toward our own idea of Life Fulfilled. Most days, I view the longing that lives in each of us as a divine promise, a reassurance that we humans are more than just an accumulation of dust particles wandering the earth for a brief moment only to be replaced by more dust particles replaced by more dust particles until everything is robots. Most days. But today, it feels like a pain in the ass.
Today, I should have been there. And instead I am here. It doesn’t matter where there is, not really. What matters is that I’m here, in Los Angeles, a world away from someone I love who is in the process of leaving this world behind. I was going to be there on Saturday, after I tied up loose ends at work. After all, I just started this new job and I need to make a good impression. It’s the opportunity I’ve been waiting for, the one that gets me closer to Life Fulfilled. I got it thanks to all the hard work I did in New York, where I thought I would find Life Fulfilled, but I did not so I moved across the country to LA where I now sit on my couch, two days too late to say goodbye.
There - the place I should have been - is the setting for almost every moment of the beautiful life that is now coming to a close. made the mistake once, when I thought Life Fulfilled meant Making It, of assuming that because that life had taken place in the same exact place for so many years, it was a small life. I was wrong. It was a life steeped in the gospel of love, one in which ever second was spent, every step directed, by the question “what can be doing for someone else?” It was a life defined by values. One void of any pretense or politics or the illusion that keeping yourself busy with things you neither want or need to do but make you feel important so you drive yourself into the ground chasing after them. It was not small, it was revolutionary.
My life is big — it’s spanned the entire country. I’ve done things I never dreamed I would be able to do and oh, they looked so good on the piece of paper that got me the job I needed to be at until Saturday when I could get there. My life is big and that’s why I’m here and not there. Why I couldn’t be there. There is only an hour and a half from where I started life. If I’d stayed in one place, if I’d found Life Fulfilled some other way, I could be there. And I know I’ll feel differently some day in the future — I’ll know it’s illogical to try and trace your life back to one decision that could have, would made it possible to be there, saying goodbye, instead of here. That would have allowed me to be there more than I have in the past few years while I’ve been chasing Life Fulfilled. I know some day in the future I’ll be able to find comfort in the fact that distance never affected the overwhelming amount of love I’ve always held for the woman who lived the beautiful life that is now coming to a close, and I’ll know in my heart that the distance separating us now could never affect the love she had for me. Someday, I’ll be able to forgive myself for being here instead of there.
Someday. But today, it feels like I will forever be haunted by my pursuit of Life Fulfilled.