Yesterday I was driving around to run various errands. I was hitting the pre-set buttons on the car radio, trying to find something worth listening to, since I didn’t have my iPod with me. I landed on WNYC-FM, and began listening to a guy tell a story about alternate universes. The show was from TheMoth.org, which supports storytelling of true stories by real people.
Anyway, he said that every time there is a decision or a path is taken, two universes exist at the same time–one where you said yes, another where you said no, one where you went left, one where you went right. I think his last name was Reiser, I can’t remember. But he told a hilarious story about how, at a time in his life when he was feeling very lost and had quit his job to “find himself”, he dreamed up this whole alternate universe in which he was a professor at Cornell.
He had all the details–married, lovely wife, two great kids, successful career, perfectly happy. In his current life he felt very depressed by this vision, and went to his “family psychic” (his words.) The psychic told him the rest of the story. “You could have taken this path if you had gone to Cornell,” the psychic said. “But then your wife would have cheated on you with your best friend and left you, taking the kids, and you would start drinking, and you wouldn’t get tenure.” So it was just as good an alternate universe to be driving around in a beat-up Volkswagen van, having left his job as a database consultant, and not knowing what he was supposed to do with his life.
I’ve been thinking about the story ever since. The guy really made me laugh. But I wanted to know, is he happy now? I think he is doing some kind of new-age thing in Boulder, Colorado (makes sense with the rest of the story.)
As Americans, we’re all about reinvention. I can’t tell you how many people said to me, when I was out of work, “You need to reinvent yourself.” And how badly I wanted to slug them in the nose. I liked the me I was, and the work I did before! But the world changes, so we have to move on.
So maybe it’s not reinvention I need. Maybe it’s that alternate universe. If I had called that made-for-TV-movie producer who gave me his card on the flight to NY, who owned the horse farm outside of Nashville, or had gone to school in English lit instead of business? Or run away when I was 35? But it would just be another story, and maybe not a happier one.
I have to think about that some more. What about you guys? Do you want an alternate universe?
BTW, I found the guy and his story–Tom Weiser.