An unexpected invitation from my first proper love appeared in my inbox: Want to be my Facebook friend? In that instant I had one of those ‘Sliding Door’* moments – you know, when you wonder what your life would have been like if…
Where would a life on that train have taken me? What experiences could I have had? Who might I have become? Would I have been less, or more, happy?
My pondering quickly moved to: What have I loved about this life that I would I have missed out on, had I caught that particular train?
Could I even conceive of a life where my career, enabled by moving to Australia to be with my Beloved also gifted me a cherished stepson, wonderful Mother-in-Law, a comfortable lifestyle, opportunities to travel, learn and grow into myself?
I shudder at the thought, while knowing that a life with my former love would have been fulsome too – likely just in different ways.
It’s been interesting and thought provoking, looking at my life through the eyes of someone once so influential, impactful and important in my world. Because, of course he’s not seeing my real life at all.
He’s not seeing the 25 years since our paths last crossed, randomly. (That day we went on to indulge in the sort of warm, laughter-filled, wine enabled, walk down memory lane that led us both to wonder what life we might have had together, if we had both been travelling on the same train, going in the same direction, at the same time).
And he’s not seeing the years that passed before Facebook enabled us to share whatever, with whomever, we choose.
Those were the years filled with character shaping events, parenting of a teenager and pets, career-building decisions, daughter-ing of parents growing older, creativity, sister-ing of adult siblings, doing my darndest to keep love and friendships alive despite dwindling time and variable energy, experimentation in homes and happiness, and eventually, finding and loving my midlife self.
He’s not seeing my real life, just the Facebook version – photographs, words and memes that capture a moment, albeit significant at the time. What picture do they paint, I wonder, to someone absent for more than half of my life?
Ultimately, unless we invest time and our best self in keeping friendships current, all we get to see are the snapshots and sound bites of others lives –perhaps shared without a thought for the impression they will give to others; perhaps carefully edited for public scrutiny – the highlights reel.
The snapshot I see of my old flame’s life gives me a sense of an adventuresome, fun-loving, sporty, outdoorsy man. In every photo, friends and family surround him. That’s just the way I remember him and I’m relieved his train looks as though it’s on a happy journey.
As I scan through my own Facebook life, this time through my eyes, I realise that I like what it says and I’m very grateful I got on this train. In real life.
In your parallel universe, what train could you have caught?
*Sliding Doors is a 1998 rom-com movie, which starred Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah. The film alternates between two parallel universes, based on the two paths the central character’s life could take, depending on whether or not she catches a particular train, causing different outcomes in her life. Here’s a very grainy trailer for the movie.