Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Sliding Doors Hypothesis

Don't ask me how some of these conversations happen, because honestly I don't know.  I'll be sitting there talking with a friend about everyday types of things, and somehow she'll mention that she likes the movie Sliding Doors, and I'll say I saw it once and wasn't a terribly big fan...

And then she says: "I remember thinking: 'What if I'd walked out a different door?  What if my car had made it through that light on time?  What if I started out going to one place, but then decided to go to another instead?  Would my life be dramatically different?"

Then, of course, this conversation will stick with me, and I'll find myself circling back to it in my mind.  Not because I had a similar experience, at all.  I remember seeing the movie and thinking: oh honestly, it just seems silly that your whole life would change missed on whether or not you'd made your train.

As someone who rides public transit and knows the frustration of near misses, I know it's easy to be irked that you missed it.  But another comes along and you eventually get to the same place, just fifteen minutes later than you'd have liked, and everything continues on its merry way.

Anyhow.  I've always found it easy to write off this type of premise as completely ridiculous, except that I realized that I have a similar tendency (and I'd imagine other people do, too, although I could be totally wrong about it).

I do this all the time when I'm looking back: would my life be different if I'd decided to stay at BYU for the rest of my undergrad instead of transferring to Weber?  If at any time in the past many, many years, I'd manage to finish a novel and get it published...would things be different?

But here's the thing about this type of looking back: it's not productive at all!  Sure, it's easy to look back at big events and say--maybe this would be different if, maybe that would be different if--but we set our own trajectories and we can't just time travel to change them.  (And really, if I have learned anything from science fiction, is that time travel never results in quite what you wanted it to, anyway.)

In short, I suppose I'm just reminding myself that choices we make get us to where we are, and choices we make going forward get us to where we'll be, and it really just doesn't do to stew too much over where we'd be if only we'd chosen that option.

1 comment:

Katya said...

I think it's a fun movie premise, especially since the ending hints that events in both "realities" weren't completely cut off from each other, but I agree that it's not productive to spend your life rethinking innocuous past decisions.