1000 Alternate Lives

In one season of the hit TV series Friends—”one that could have been”, the characters fantasize about an alternative life that could have happened for them. I, too, often wonder “what if?” about endless possibilities.

What if I had started my company in Belgium? I might have married a Belgian girl and started a Belgian cricket team on my own!

What if I accepted that offer to move to the U.S. once I got back from Belgium?

Not just recent history.

I can travel further back in time, wondering what might have happened had I continued studying physics in college rather than engineering. Maybe I would have become an ISRO space scientist.

I could go even earlier.

I wonder what would have happened if my brother hadn’t passed away, or if our fates had been reversed? There’s nothing stopping me from venturing into an even more distant past—like if my father had fulfilled his ambition of becoming a Catholic priest before tuberculosis forced him to quit his seminary studies.

Physicist Stephen Hawking said, “The past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities.” We can lose ourselves in thousands of alternate pasts, but dwelling on them risks trapping us in our own prisons. Our imaginations can shackle us to the past or inspire gratitude for our present and hope for our future.

While some fantasies of alternate realities may be pleasant daydreams, I am genuinely grateful for where I am today. With a loving wife, two sons, a fulfilling job, and fun colleagues, I’m happy with my life. I’m in a good financial position, so I can be grateful instead of wallowing in regret.

Instead of imprisoning myself in a doom loop of depression and squandering present and future on “what ifs,” it is far better to be grateful for today and envision a brighter future and embrace the life we’ve been given.