“In every possible future, you have to die.”
― Olivia Dunham, Fringe
Okay, I know you feel weirded out by this quote choice. I’ll explain.
If you were ever to meet me in real life, you’d come to slowly find out that I love sci-fi. Not necessarily the Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica-sci-fi, but YA sci-fi and more specifically, Fringe. Fringe is my favorite TV show ever. I’ve always loved Olivia Dunham and I think it’s an incredibly fun, thought-provoking show. It’s been a while since I’ve last binged the series on the whole, but it is on Amazon Prime if you’re interested.
I’ve always been a bit indecisive. It’s a thing I talk about on the blog on a recurring basis. I find it hard to make decisions that I know will dramatically shape the outcome of my life. There’s a ton of pressure to get it right, and I don’t know how to be wrong.
The thing about decisions that we all know is that we can’t choose both and. We do not live in a world where all possibilities are fulfilled. At least not us normal humans. And we can’t live lives that fully contradict each other. For example, to live a life as a homeschooling mom is not the same as a corporate CEO. Those embody different lifestyles, mindsets, and schedules.
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Something’s gotta give.
In a world that champions our ability to do everything and be anything, this reality is harsh. It is cruel to tell someone what their limits are, but I’d argue that it’s crueler to allow them to live a lie, wasting years trying to fight their human limitations.
“In every possible future, you have to die.”
The future is written on the heart of man. I grew up so badly knowing what and who I’d become. The future is a fascination, an endless desire. Why is it that mediums and psychics and astrology are such big things? Our longing to have what is beyond us in our grasp is human. In Mr. Nobody (a favorite movie of mine), Jared Leto’s character is contemplating three different lives, three possible futures. Each future entails divergent circumstances – different spouses and kids. And he gets to choose.
In the same way, so do we.
We get to choose which future is ours. But it often doesn’t come like that. It doesn’t come fully formed with its outcome fully in view. Instead we can only see one step ahead. We have only enough foresight to make one move, not knowing what is beyond.
What we do know we don’t like to admit. The selves we do not choose to embody, the lives we choose not to live – they die.
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When I first choose UVA as my college of choice, I didn’t feel elated necessarily. I had made a decision but I wasn’t certain it was right. And maybe that’s a terrible way to feel. I felt that way because I instinctively knew I was giving up a reality I’d never see the outcome of. Who could know what would have awaited me at Syracuse if I chose it? Now it doesn’t matter, but then, it felt like a loss I didn’t know how to grieve.
Not all deaths are so dramatic. The choice to engage in a community where I could discuss my vocation was immediate. My mentor told me about the program, and I immediately said yes. Of course, I could’ve considered the time commitment and responsibilities more closely, but my elation, my desire to come to know more of myself and my future vocation, that’s the life I chose. I have no clue what life I’ve buried. Maybe I could’ve joined the local radio station. Perhaps continued on in the school paper. I’m not sure.
What I am sure of is that death is a certainty.
Death is a certainty because we only have one life, one future. So we have to kill the others we did not choose. This death isn’t always as conscious, but we still consent to it. We may not mourn, but loss is still loss. Loss leaves us with what if’s or simply a peace that we dare not explain.
In Fringe, one of the main characters has to die to have a plan set into motion (trying not to spoil it!). Similarly, we have to die for the plan of change to set into motion. Change and transitions enter into our lives. And we embrace the opportunities to be grow. As school looms closer, I have to allow this last year to change me. To refine me into who I’m supposed to be when I graduate.
There is still much to learn and many ways I expect to grow. The enemy of growth, of the future, is resistance. Hidden beneath that resistance is fear. Fear that the future will not live up to expectation. Fear that I can’t embrace what’s in front of me. This resistance can be overwhelming, but every kind of death requires a surrender.
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We either surrender to what has occurred to us or what has happened to those around us. This radical acceptance is not the norm, and paradoxically, it brings peace. There is death we cannot control, decisions we didn’t make, but our new selves are being fashioned. We are being sculpted and molded into what never has been before. When the old has passed away and the new resurfaces, this new self has scars we once feared, has wounds we once hid, and yet we are strong.
I’m not quite sure I’m ready to die.
There is still time left for me to grieve the parts of myself I’ve carried with me for far too long. But I’m curious. I’m curious about what lies ahead for my new self. I hope I can surrender. To become who I’m supposed to when the next chapter arrives.
If you liked this post, there’s plenty more in my related posts. I do quote series posts pretty regularly. Peruse the blog for more content or go to Instagram if you want visuals.