A strange thing about grief that you wouldn’t know until you experience it, and even then, you may not realize until well after the fact, is that you find yourself thinking the silliest things. Since Male died nearly a year ago, I’ve caught myself playing the What Ifs more often than usual.
The What If game is a sort of algorithm my brain automatically runs to determine possible outcomes, particularly worst case scenarios, kind of like a flowchart. Sometimes, this is useful, for example, when you’re trying to make a decision. Most of the time though, my brain runs it on my past, which isn’t helpful at all since there’s nothing I can do to change it.
Had I taken that full-ride scholarship to UCLA, I could have come to Los Angeles a decade earlier and met Male then. If I had I gone to UCLA, I wouldn’t have become a homeless teen prostitute. I could have avoided the traumatic brain injury and I’d be way smarter now. I wouldn’t have spent eight years in an abusive relationship. I would have a better job with a nice house. I could maybe, somehow stop Male from dying…
Oh, but if I went straight to Los Angeles, that would mean I didn’t move to Boston where I met my best friend. I can’t trade knowing Male for an extra decade for not knowing my best friend. That’s not a fair deal.
The alternate choice, e.g., go to college, can never result in negative consequences. It’s supposed to be an automatic life on easy street. Nothing bad could ever happen over on the left side in that other choice, so I’ll just have to find a workaround…
I can wait for her to come out to Los Angeles in 1999 and meet her then. But, if I wasn’t in Boston to move with her to Los Angeles in 1999, would she still come? Obviously, this whole train of thought only works if I have memories of this timeline in that one. I’ll somehow have to make that happen since I can’t risk not meeting Male or my best friend.
This is a real train of thought I had the other day. I debated with myself as to the best way to explore an alternate timeline, time travel or whatever other idiocy I would use to make this happen (become Superman and fly around really fast to turn back time?). What else would I miss by not going through most of the awful chapters of my life?
Like all the other mind games my brain plays without my permission, the What If game is just a way to torture myself. It’s just another way for my brain to avoid thinking about the reality of all those terrible chapters, but no amount of what ifs can change my past. No brain flowchart can make Male any less gone.
What about you? Do you ever play the What If game? What would your alternate choice be?