One thing about being over 50 is that you have made some choices in your life that have brought you to where you are. You have chosen where to live, how to make a living, who your friends are, who your significant other is, whether to have children with that significant other. Each of those choices represents a branch in your path, a fork in the road. And if you’re like most people, you’ve made some good choices and some bad choices in the last 50 years.
So here you are, on the right side of 50 and it’s only natural to look back and wonder, what if? That is the theme of a show currently playing on Broadway called “If/Then.” It stars Idina Menzel and was written by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey. The show is loosely based on a 1998 film called “Sliding Doors,” which starred Gwyneth Paltrow. The show explores the ramifications of one decision the main character makes. We follow the character down both paths to see the differences depending on whether she leaves a park with one friend or another. It’s quite a cerebral concept for a Broadway musical and while the show has not been a complete flop, it has not been a hit either. It was shut out at the Tonys.
Anyway, I found the idea intriguing to ponder. Every time we come to a fork in the road we alter our life trajectory slightly. That fact was never so poignant as when we read the stories of the 9/11 victims and survivors. In so many cases, seemingly minor decisions made the difference between life and death. Many people would call this fate. But that’s really a cop-out. It implies we have no control over our destiny, when in fact our decisions determine our fate, even if those decisions are made without knowledge of the consequences.
In the course of a 50-plus-year life, the number of decisions is staggering. But our life is the sum of all these choices. I think that just about everyone would like a do-over on some of those decisions. Of course, if you only live once, you’re out of luck. For the mathematically-minded, the formula is: IF YOLO THEN SOL.
But if you believe in reincarnation this is not such a big deal for you. There is one factor tempering the destructive effect of bad decisions. Sometimes two paths can lead to the same place. Often we take the long way around in life. How often do we hear about childhood sweethearts who go their separate ways only to be reunited after their spouses die. There are many paths to each destination so in many cases you can get there from here. That’s why most of us can agree with the sentiment of the Paul Anka song: “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.” I call that the definition of a good life.