Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Requiem for his moon, not mine

Nighttime on the canal with no one around, at the edge of the city on a floating pier, we had a late picnic of sushi and beer under the full moon. I had been thinking about how interesting it is that people from such different places can meet by chance and get along so easily, so well. How was it that I was able to invite a near stranger, a traveller, to stay with me for nearly two months, and not regret it? Luck perhaps, or instinct, or necessity. Or, good looks. We talked of choices and chance, and life philosophies.

He told me of a night a few years earlier when he'd suddenly realized that he would never walk on the moon. It was a thought he hadn't had since he was a child, but as that child, it was what he'd most desired and somehow it had transformed from a dream to an impossibility. With that realization, he cried, he said, and did for hours. He mourned for all the decisions he didn't make, for terminal inaction. His relationship with the moon was condemned to be the same as nearly everyone's.

Every decision we make is to the exclusion of something else. Not making a decision is, in a way, also a choice. I knew exactly what he was talking about. As time passes, our options and priorities change. As I reflect on decisions I have and haven't made in my time so far, some of my choices seem to make more sense than they seemed initially, and others less. One by one, little by little, though, certain routes were more attractive than others, and here I am. Somehow, I ended up this person. Me. A single twenty-nine-year-old, living on my own 2000 km from where I grew up, wishing I hadn't had a cappuccino so late at night so that I could just stop thinking and go to sleep.

Without suggesting that the alternatives would have made me any happier, I know that my life could be very different right now. I believe, for example, that I could already be married and possibly even divorced and remarried. I might even have children. I could be working nine-to-five and making a very competitive salary with benefits. I might be an investigative journalist or photographer. I might be fluent in five languages. I might live in Buenos Aires.

Ultimately, I didn't choose those paths, and I wonder if they ever really were an option for me, up to now. Such choices require a certain amount of conviction, and whenever I seem to get very close to one of the above, I buy a plane, train or bus ticket instead, and let my absence decide for me. Does that make me an escapist? Perhaps. But, when I think about it, missing out on any of those things does not affect me nearly as much as wishing I'd have been this independent and motivated sooner. I've never wanted to walk on the moon, and everything I want is still within reach. For that, I am thankful.