what if we had layers between us
Sometimes I wonder what happens when you choose to love the life you chose for yourself. Are there moments where you’re wishing for the other life that you didn’t choose? Are you in the land of what ifs?
Does it make me too much of a dreamer if I’m always wondering what could’ve been? Not necessarily lamenting the alternate paths, just wondering. I don’t necessarily see myself as a dreamer. I do believe myself to be an optimist. Sprinklings of idealism, and a health dose of practicality. Wafts of dreams mixed with reality. But, I do find myself thinking, from time to time, of the people from my past and what led me to now, and if one choice had changed ... if I’d be in a radically different life.
I’ve watched Past Lives a couple of times since the start of June, and I think this is one of those movies that is slotted into my shelf of “Forever Movies” that so deeply resonate with me, across various times of my life. (No major spoilers, but some slight spoilery vibes ahead!) I so clearly related to how Nora navigated being a Korean-Canadian in North America. The actual struggle with writing in Hangul without the letters on the keyboard. The ambitions, and dreams that she had for herself. The changes over the years. The prospect of creative joy, and being vulnerable with herself. Exploring and discussing ideas, and feeling heard and seen. Yet, I think I have moments where I’m much more like Hae Sung: an ordinary dreamer, reflecting on what could have been. There’s a nugget of dissatisfaction, or maybe curiosity, mixed with yearning. The nervous energy, the uncertainty around how to move, and be. If we had done something differently with someone, what could’ve been.
Sometimes, I go through my catalogue of memories: Dancing at my twelfth birthday party. Playing with Barbies and my brother’s Batman in my room. Building sofa forts, and sledding down the stairs. Passing sheet music back. Going to Chapters and drinking Starbucks outside on the picnic table. Dancing awkwardly at arms length. The top of the parkade. Walking down Queen West. Staring at a pile of nachos. A drink in the pub. An impromptu burger. Sitting in the grass on a hill overlooking the city. Turning at the sound of a laugh. Getting dropped off outside a surprise party. Climbing the barrels precariously. Searching for poutine on Canada Day in Paris. Wandering away from the touristy main streets to find dinner. The empty seat between on the plane. The sunrise on the rooftop, after little to no sleep.
I think of what could’ve been. I wish for more bravery for my past self. I have so much love for the younger me, and for her fears, and worries, and the leaps she didn’t take when she could’ve trusted and believed in herself. Wishing for more honesty from her, and having all the love for her and the honesty she did have and share. More trust in others. Or rather, more trust in herself. But these are all sometimes moments. Just the type of moments that make me want to hug past me. I want to envelope my past self in the warmth of understanding, forgiveness, and love for who she was and how she was navigating life with whatever understanding she had of herself. And, since I’m where I am right now is a result of my past choices, I can’t really see any of those other selves that could’ve been. Not the actual me in the alternate path. The me of what could’ve been.
That’s a partial truth and a partial lie. I can see myself in those other lives, but they’re always a version of me that is similar to how I am now. Because, the imaginations of current me would still be imbued with the me from now. Isn’t it funny how we can imagine another life but the core who you are doesn’t change? I don’t think it does, anyway. Because how can you actually see an alternative self for yourself if the life you’re leading is a result of the choices you’ve made and who you are? Had your alternate selves chosen different paths, you can’t even imagine them being drastically different than you now because you wouldn’t be here presently, if you had made those other choices. Your current self thinks of choice and paths in a way that is rooted in who you are as a person, and I believe you always would have made those choices now.
In Past Lives, the idea of inyeon is a major theme; the idea of the fated interactions and providence between people and their encounters. This idea that there are 8,000 layers, over 8,000 lifetimes, of inyeon between someone and their connection to the other. Maybe it explains soulmates, and the final life, but how do we know that? In this lifetime, is our fate just to be strangers on the same train, seated next to each other? To me, it’s impossible to tell. And, sometimes, I lament the feelings of what could’ve been, and the loss of the past self and that snapshot of a person that gets carried through someone else’s memory. What life would I have lived if my parents never immigrated to Canada? How would that change my view of myself? What layer of inyeon am I on currently?
Have you felt the influx of stories lately exploring alternate lives? The multiverse? How worlds and lives would change if they made other choices? What has been going on in our collective that we’re looking at the alternatives so much? Do we wish for another choice? Another timeline? Are we reminding ourselves of the choices we’ve made? Are we reassuring ourselves that this is the right timeline and there’s nothing you can do now? Or, is it a collective exploration and reminder that our choices have consequences? Our choices are what led us to now, and the dreams and wishes we once had can result in so much more or less or something entirely different.
I don’t think there’s any one way to explore the path not taken. I like to think that dreaming of what could’ve been is just another reminder that we’re where we are because of our choices. Dreaming of what could’ve been reassures you of your choices now. The rightness of it in the moment, and where it leads you to grow and reflect and be human. Or, it motivates you to move forward, and reach for a new normal, a new path, a new choice. A new life. A continued life.
Things I’m Into Lately
Clearly, you have to go see Past Lives. It opened wide in North America last week, and I just want to talk about it in depth with anyone and everyone who watches it. I’ve already seen it twice, and I rarely repeat a watch in-theater.
The reading vibe for me right now has been: finishing this five-book series about brothers by Roxie Noir (The Loveless Brothers) within a span of two weeks (only because the 4th one explored a trope I am not a fan of and took me too long to finish!!!!); sports romances that are okay; getting a three-month Kindle Unlimited trial, and just going through the slew of books in that library, because it’s all I have the brain power for.
This is #goals: It’s Never Too Late to Travel the World With Your Best Friend; this series by the New York Times is a good reminder that there isn’t an actual timeline on doing The Things. Speaking of the NYT, I’ve been reading a lot from their Well section, and the snippets they post on their Instagram account.
Didn’t realize I’d get emosh finishing the final season of Never Have I Ever, but I did? What a journey for hot-headed Devi Vishwakumar, and the growth in four season by all the people in her life. Oof. My heart! Since I needed another something light to watch next, Glamorous (starring Kim Cattrall and Miss Benny) was an easy watch. I know I had Some Thoughts but overall, it wasn’t too bad: watch if you’re not feeling too critical, and are a bit brainless.
Me (and the rest of Canada) lamenting the Eras Tour bypassing our cities, and just daydreaming (and possibly actively planning???) of European vacations that coincide with those dates. My current mantra: I can save, I can save, I can save. (But, also, I like experiencing the now, so this is difficult!)
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