What if...I'd done all the things I never did?
And what if... I hadn't done all the things I always did?
For years, it was my dream to live in Greece. And what if, instead of choosing not to go and live in Greece when I got the chance (because I had fallen in love with a man and he seemed more important than dreams) what if I'd gone? What if I'd fallen in love instead with the olive trees, the Aegean ocean, the dusty trails that lead to Delphi?
And for years, it was my dream to study at Oxford University. So, what if, instead of learning how to numb my teenage agonies with drugs and booze and sex, I'd been able to focus in school, to excel rather than coast, to never see the accusatory, "Does not work to her full potential" on every single report card I brought home, but to get straight As and swan off to Oxford for a life of academic attainment, and intricate discussions with men who wore dusty chalk-stained jackets with patches on the elbows?
And what if I did or didn't do all those things, and it still brought me to exactly the same place? Here. Now. Should I be resentful? Or relieved?
I was never the type of person to actually make my dreams into reality. I just sort of hoped everything would happen with very little effort on my part. After all, I'd already done the most important part by coming up with the dream. I wasn't really interested in doing all the boring bits in the middle.
And I suspect the tantalizing road not taken, with its greener grass, and golden glow, the just-missed, if-onlyed, out-of-reach, coulda-been life, is always what we didn't choose. My "I wish I'd gone to Greece" lament, is based on the assumptions of dreams.... that I'd have somehow created a bohemian lifestyle with an olive-eyed paramour, and frequent strolls along the beach dressed in flowing white linen, conversing effortlessly in Greek, and generally feeling superior to all the people I'd left behind in my old life.
And in my academic dream, where I worked to my full potential, I picture a fabulously intellectual career, being a bright a star among the dusty professors, my razor-edged mind slicing through scholarly sluggishness and shredding their arguments with acerbic wit and breath-taking insight.
In other words, I suspect that all the choices I didn't make would have turned me into a first class asshole, because too much success combined with my fragile yet monstrous ego would have been a disastrous combination, and that's why the universe arranged it so I passed up the things I should have done, and pursued the things I shouldn't. At least, that's what I tell myself now. And maybe it was all supposed to bring me here, telling you I am a person who passed up a lot of dreams, but who's feeling pretty grateful to be alive to tell the tale. Maybe the real grace in life is that we do pass up the things we should have done, so we can do the things we're supposed to do. Maybe.
But there's one more dream I've always had, and I know I could make it happen , no matter what choices brought me here, no matter how old I get, and no matter how much of an asshole I may or may not be. Unlike the other dreams, this one is simple, it doesn't require a lifestyle change, and it would only be for one night. My dream is to sing in an old-fashioned cocktail bar, leaning provocatively against the grand piano, wearing a slinky, sequinned dress, and holding the audience in the palm of my gloved hand as my voice slides around them like dark honey. That's what I want to do before I die. In fact, that's how I want to die: sprawled over a grand piano, slithering in sequins, having just poured out the best version of "dream a little dream" you ever heard.
Does it matter if I ever realize this dream, or is it more important to have had it, to have kept it, to take it out and enjoy it once in a while? And so what if I didn't walk the dusty trails to Delphi, or rub elbows with the dusty intellectuals of Oxford? When I die, I'll become dust. And if I made my final dream come true, there might just be a tiny sequin sparkling in my ashes.