All the Lives I’m Not Living and Other Ramblings of a Disillusioned Millennial
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of novels where the protagonist is immortal and she gets to live through momentous historical events such as World Wars, political and social revolutions. With so much time to spare, she travels across the globe devouring the cultures, delicacies and everything else the world has to offer. She usually learns multiple languages and dons multiple different personalities as if they are clothes. These kind of novels generally come to a similar conclusion where the protagonist eventually realizes that all that matters is to love and be loved in return in this eternal lifetime where everything is merely ephemeral.
On the surface, this seems like such a cliche to me — a simple, somewhat attainable consolation prize to keep us going in the face of the most fundamental and unavoidable human condition: Death. Because none of us actually know what it’s like to live forever and there’s nothing else to do but to accept the hands we’re dealt (at least for now). But you can’t go through life thinking about death every second of everyday. It’s depressing. So sometimes I think What If?
What If I’d had the opportunity to live through centuries, witnessing the evolution of our civilizations across decades? What If I could become whoever I want, do whatever I want, be reckless and daring knowing that I’d be exempt from facing any fatal consequences? What If I could live boldly, knowing that I’m not tethered to some fragile body?
Occasionally, the What Ifs I start imagining in the sci-fi future tense seep into the bygone abyss; losing all their grandeur, becoming smaller and smaller.
What if I had taken that chance? What if I had done this instead of that? What if, what if, what if??? Suddenly all my past decisions – no matter how tiny or trivial – are under the microscope, waiting to be examined and analyzed.
Jonathan Safran Foer says it better than I ever can: “Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
Every choice is a renunciation. It’s heartbreaking to live knowing that there’s only so much you can fit in a human’s lifetime — a lifetime that feels even shorter when you have crippling anxiety forcing you to remain in your comfort zone like your life depends on it.
And the more you stay in that bubble of comfort zone,
the more suffocating it becomes to live through each day,
knowing that which you choose to remain in,
is a cage of your own making.
And you realize that in time,
you become your anxiety and the anxiety becomes you,
until there’s no distinguishing between the two.
So you start blaming the anxiety first – briefly – and then yourself – forever –
because now that the anxiety is you there’s no one to blame but you,
for all the roads not taken,
for all the opportunities forsaken,
for all the other YOUs you could have been,
if only you’d let yourself be comfortable in your own skin.
If only, if only, if only.
I don’t know how to end this piece. And frankly, I don’t care. I usually care a lot. But this time, I’m going to hit publish without thinking too much.