The What Ifs

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” Robert Frost’s famous poem about the metaphorical crossroads we come to and the choices we make has been on my mind today. Well, my thoughts of the poem have been inspired by finishing a book last night. I’ll mention the book, but know this is not a review of the book at all, only the thoughts I’ve had after reading it.

I recently subscribed to a monthly box of book goodies. I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth the money every month, but that’s not important now. The important part of the book box is the new author I get introduced to each month. I kind of like not knowing what book I’m going to get and not getting a choice in the matter. Don’t get me wrong, I can spend several wonderful hours in a bookstore, poring over the titles, trying to decide what adventures I’m in the mood for and the right author to guide me, but there’s something to be said for reading a book another group of people feel I would like.

This month, the box came with “The Other Us” by Fiona Harper, a book all about the roads we travel and the main character’s obsession with “What if?”.  We’ve all been there, especially as we get older, wondering about those nagging “what ifs.”

“What if I hadn’t taken that job?”

“What if I hadn’t changed my major in college?”

“What if I hadn’t moved away?”

“What if…”

Fill in the blank. We all have those questions running around in our minds every so often. For authors, we live on those questions. Not just regarding our own pasts, but the things around us. “What if that car hadn’t stopped in time?” I’ll ask myself that question after seeing a near accident and then spend the next few minutes picturing exactly what could have happened. I don’t know if that is something everyone does or if it’s unique, but I do know it often gets my creative juices flowing. I’ve notes in my phone and random notebooks all over the place with thoughts and ideas that pop into my head after asking myself a “what if.”

I imagine for most of us, we ask ourselves “What if I’d done this differently?” a lot and probably mostly about relationships or career or money. I guess that’s what the question was for the author of this book, “What if my character could go back and try it all over again?” So they did. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, the other road may lead to where you think you want to go, but once you’re there, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The same can be said for the safer, more travelled path. It looks easy, like smooth sailing, but what you can’t see are the hills and pot holes waiting for the unsuspecting hiker.

No path is easy, we just make the best decision we can with the information we have at the moment. Maybe the result isn’t ideal, but perhaps the alternative would have been worse. We’ll never know and I think, at least for my life, I don’t want to. Instead, I’ll use that creative energy to think up “what if” scenarios for my characters and see where they take me.

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