One of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, wrote a graphic novel in which Destiny walks blindly through his garden, chained to his book where fates are written. He writes that every person walks through Destiny's garden, taking countless turns and changes in direction, yet when one looks back, there is only one path.
At this juncture in my life, as I wait out the long weeks until I go to Spain to learn to teach, I find myself looking back tortuously over my life so far. Twenty two years is nothing but a blip in the history of the world, and yet how many worlds have I inhabited, how many lives have I lived, and how many deaths have I died. It is agonising to think through the years and see highlighted those moments which, by my own doing or another's, shaped the person I am today, and the path I have so far trodden. Questions fill my head, rendering thought impossible, all coming down to the same two enduringly empty words: 'What if?'.
Now, I know what you're thinking: there's no point in dwelling on the past, you must look ahead if you are to move forward. I know well that to stay in one place for too long is to stagnate. A river must find its way to the ocean. And yet while I wait to embark on the next big adventure, to change the course of my life once again, thoughts of the past and what might have been haunt my waking hours. But one mustn't get too hung up on possibilities, especially when the people you've left behind (or who have left you behind) are still a presence in your life, albeit peripheral and slightly irritating. If you spend too much time wondering what might have been, you forget about what might be, what could be just around the corner.
But the truth is, what might be scares the hell out of me. There are certain things I can control, with hard work and a whole lot of faith, I can evolve my own destiny. Then there are things that just have to be dealt with as they come along. These life unknowns are not what worry me; I'm a pretty good person to have around in a crisis. No, it's something quite different that deepens the premature worry line on my forehead. I don't want to have any regrets when I face Death. I want to be able to look back and say: although I didn't know it at the time, I made the right decision. The only thing standing in the way of making the right choices for my own future happiness is myself, second guessing every step, every turn on the path. What scares me is that once a path is chosen, there is no going back, no second chance. Life's a stage and there are no rehearsals. How do I stop the times I went for it, only for things to blow up in my face, from stopping me in future times when I should go for it but fear getting hurt?
The thing is, although it will by no means lessen the line on my brow, I know the answer already, but am loathe to put it into practise by that mostly dormant Stockholm Syndrome in everyone's mind that keeps us in love with our pain. The answer is: do it anyway. I've said it before when talking about my career plans, which at this point involve leaving on a jet plane and being quite uncertain as to when I'll return: feel the fear and do it anyway. Why not the same for love, in all its forms? People hurt each other, but we still make friends, form bonds, fall in love. I suppose the key is not to burden the people you meet tomorrow with the pain caused by the people who hurt you yesterday. It's bad Karma and downright unfair.
And so I live in hope that in the very near future, I will be able, finally, to scrunch my residual fear and self doubt into a tight ball, and throw it over the proverbial cliff. Besides being so very ready to move on, there's no room for it in my suitcase.