What is the story of your life?
In one of the many insightful posts my friends are sharing on Facebook, I recently found this thought starter:
“If someone came up to you and handed you a book and you started reading it and you realised it was a book about your entire life – would you read it until the end?”
Apart from now having Story of My Life stuck in my head, of course I’m now pondering: to know or not to know, that is the question.
To know that it’s all going to turn out okay, that XYZ that you always hoped for will eventually appear, that you’ll all live happily ever after… That sounds tempting. Then you can relax in the knowledge that the rest of your life will be fabulous and wonderful and you need never worry about anything ever again.
But what if it doesn’t end well, what if you die tomorrow, what if some horrendous tragedy occurs when you’re older? Then it’s less tempting…
It’s human nature to seek to reduce uncertainty, to create a comfort zone, to want to feel safe. My nephew likes to check what day it is so that he knows: okay, today is nursery; today is Saturday so I have football. That way he can look forward to fun activities within a set frame of reference. My mum is the same – she loves going back to the same holiday resort every year and enjoys the anticipation of going back all year long.
But isn’t life all about exploring, discovering, learning? And isn’t part of the fun the uncertainty, the exhilaration of not knowing? Spoilers! As River Song would say.
My granddad used to say that life was all about chance, and your story could be shaped by some pretty arbitrary circumstances. In his case, his mum died when he was five, his dad when he was ten, his older brother when he was fifteen. As a result, he was a poor orphan who got a scholarship to study at one of Sweden’s best universities, where he met my grandmother. Her dad in turn had died in the Spanish flu when she was just seven months, and because her mum then couldn’t take care of her she grew up with her uncle and aunt who could afford to have her study at university. So tragedy on both sides led to a chance encounter that in turn resulted in over 60 years of marriage and, most importantly of course, my birth!
I love hearing stories about how couples met on that fateful night when both of them had wanted to stay at home… when he accidentally kicked the football into the bushes and she dribbled it back to him… when they both happened to be crossing Trafalgar Square… when they locked eyes across the bar on New Year’s Eve…
Or what about a job opportunity that comes out of nowhere, a trip of a lifetime that falls perfectly into place, a friend of a friend who has [fill in that thing that you desperately need]?
What fun would it be to know exactly what’s going to happen next? Who you’re going to meet, where you’re going to end up? Facing one long road ahead with no twists and turns?
So it’s actually a pretty easy question to answer, in fact: no way, josé, I’ll leave that book on the shelf, thank you very much, and live life the messy way.
“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.”