This post has been in my drafts for more than a year. I am glad to relive these conversations and finally post this. This is a lengthy post about ‘sliding doors moments’ – you know, the times when you are at a fork in the road and could have chosen left but you went right? How would your life have turned out differently?
It was June 2013 when the Hottest 100 of all time was on Triple J, and friends on Twitter were saying that Twitter makes this countdown more fun. We talked about where we were when songs were released, and how they changed our lives.
I got talking about how I was never into Jeff Buckley because I hadn’t heard him, and that I felt like the mid-late 90s was a Savage Garden bubble of fandom for me. It really meant that I wasn’t exposed to anything outside of the top 40 on the radio or TV as I would be too busy listening out for Truly Madly Deeply at number 1 (even though I had more than one copy of their CD!). I missed Jeff Buckley. And I know my friends were shocked. I realised that my life might have been different had I discovered Jeff Buckley instead of Savage Garden. Of course I was laughed at for my music choice. It was my musical sliding doors moment.
Silverchair’s music contributed to another sliding doors moment – perhaps my biggest decision in my life. I mentioned this at a speech last week, and my current day job manager said he sat there with his head in his hands, shaking his head at my honesty! When I was in my last year of university, I applied for 26 graduate position jobs, all around the East Coast of Australia. I was to move from my small hometown near Albury to a big city of opportunity.
In December of that year, I was offered two jobs – one in Canberra and one in Melbourne. I weighed up my options in a very short timeframe. The Canberra job paid more money at the time, but the living expenses were more expensive and the public transport was limited. Melbourne’s job paid slightly less but the public transport was more accessible. There was also the Melbourne lifestyle that appealed to me. I had a few friends there at the time. I knew it well from regular trips to hospital yet I’d only been to Canberra once or twice then.
And the there was this deciding factor. In late 2002 I’d booked tickets to see Silverchair in Melbourne the following April. I worried that if I took the Canberra job, I wouldn’t be able to get time off for the concert in Melbourne as I would be new in the role. And so my choice was made. I chose the Melbourne job because of that Silverchair concert. I did get to see them in 2003, it was at the Palais and it was amazing! That was the Across the Night concert, which was a mix of slower Silverchair and the rock they’re known for. I also remember a couple of women with massive hair sitting in front of us, obscuring our view. When I was asked by the former head of my organisation why I chose this workplace, I told him the truth, and I think he was very surprised.
I wonder how my life could have been had I moved to Canberra? I wonder. I am so grateful for the life I’ve built here in Melbourne. Could it have been the same way there?
I think back to my parents – they had to leave South Africa to marry due to Apartheid, and Dad applied to work in Canada and Australia. He said to my Mum, “we’re going to Australia to get married.” And so they did. What would a Canadian life be like?
After I briefly shared my sliding doors moments on Twitter, I asked my Facebook friends what theirs were. And they shared them for me to blog. I love these. They’re truly life changing, life saving. Thank you everyone.
Kathryn: “When I left government style job at legal aid, and went into private practice !!!”
Rebecca: There are many! I was accepted into teaching at Charles Sturt in Wagga but decided to stay in Illawarra for a boyfriend who turned out to be a violent, possessive and crazy so I wonder what would have happened if I’d made the move and become a teacher. Who knows where I’d be now! Also wish I’d travelled more when I was younger. Have to say my path lead me to have my amazing son so he’s worth all the bullshit along the way!
Mia: “Everyone has one … Transfer with my job to New York and work on Wall St. or Work for my Dad … I chose my Dad, my family. I still choose community over profit.”
Jess: “If I had chosen a different path in life, I would not be alive.
At thirteen years old I became life threateningly ill with a chronic illness.
A few years later, I developed Anorexia Nervosa. When the body breaks, so often the mind follows.
I could have continued on the path of self destruction, and starved myself into oblivion. I could have remained angry at what had happened to me, and I could have continued to punish myself for something which I never had a choice in.
I never had a choice in developing a chronic illness, and I never had a choice in developing an Eating Disorder. But I did have a choice in recovering from my Eating Disorder.
I remain Chronically Ill, but I am free of my anorexia.
I am alive.
If I had taken the alternative path, I would not have been here to answer this post.
every single day I am reminded of why the path I chose was the right one xx”
Belinda: “At age 19 I had dreams about moving overseas and working somewhere exciting for a few years. Met a guy while still in Sydney, stayed with him far too long (he was also abusive) and that dream never happened. I wonder what would have happened if i never met that guy….”
Cindy: “selling my hairdressing business and leaving my career to become a disability support worker. I often wonder how much richer I would be or if i’d just be miserable. I love my job now but doesn’t pay well. Also if I didn’t buy my house, I lost a lot of freedom for it, but gained stability. Lose win or win lose? I was a hairdresser for 14 years before I decided to give it away.. I loved that I made people feel great, but it just wasn’t giving me the personal reward I was looking for. I have that now, and I do all my clients hair for them for free. The joy on their faces is irreplaceable.. I have the best of both worlds right now, just poorer! LOL!”
Robert: “The most significant (from which all of my other sliding doors moments in the last decade have derived), was moving to London (although I didn’t really fret about that choice at all – there was no alternative in my mind at the time). There was an interesting one when I first arrived in the UK, and was living with some Irish Travellers (gypsies) in Bristol – was with them for 5 days before deciding that London was where I really needed (wanted too, but needed more) to be.”
Bianca: “I often wonder what my life might look like had I not met my fiancé five years ago. Before meeting him I had absolutely no direction and a very low opinion of myself. Since meeting him, my life has completely changed. He encouraged me to go back to school and I am currently completing my Masters in Teaching. I’m very thankful that I said yes to that date!”
Michelle: “I wonder what would have happened, had I applied myself to uni the first time around. I would have graduated in 1998, and probably wouldn’t have spent 20 years in retail.”
Sharnee: “When I was 15 I didn’t move to QLD with my boyfriend. (we fell in love at 13). We spoke for months, him singing to me and pleading for me to move up. I wanted to be with him, but I wanted to finish year 10 & 12 and go to uni with the support of my family. We had to let each other go- and move on with our lives. Over a year later (at just 17) I fell pregnant to a new boyfriend. And we created a beautiful family. What would my life had looked like if I had chose to move to QLD… Hmmm I know I would’ve tried to finish school, but it would’ve been hard being so young, no licence, no parents, I would’ve hoped to have gone to uni… But I could’ve failed to do both…in my dreams I see me playing pro golf with Brett – and him being my caddy.”
Rachael: “For me, my friend and I changed the date of our cruise ship holiday and on the holiday we went on I met my now husband! Had we gone on the original dates we had planned, I have no idea where I’d be now…. Funnily enough I wasn’t thrilled about changing the dates at the time but now I’m so glad we did because I’m happy with what turned out to be!”
Jean: “When I decided to move interstate to study my dream course, leaving behind close friends, family and bf. Maybe I should’ve just settled for second best, different career path but possibly more stable and stayed with those I loved.”
Lynn: “Choice of two jobs 18 months ago – chose the wrong one I think x”
Khairani: “When Carly asked what my “Sliding Doors” moment was, apart from the fact that chopping off my hair did not lead to my death-slash-the-birth-of-a-child (Late Spoiler Alert!), I would have to say that each and every moment in life could be a sliding door-portal-thingy to another universe entirely. If I brush a mosquito away with my left hand instead of my right, will a snowstorm happen in Ottawa? If you decided to click on a cat video instead of this link, would a chain of events have unfurled that sends you to Mount Kilimanjaro in the next four months? Could we teleport cheaply sooner if we eat more carbs?
This morning, my father excitedly sent the family a link to an article about a “time cloak” invented, that could literally hide data. It made me wonder if the scientists had ever read “A Wrinkle In Time” by Madeleine L’Engle, and if they hadn’t, would their emotional makeup over long nights of researching be different? Would they have had the same children and bought the same car or soy milk brand? Do subatomic ripples effect the whole of life? Yes, yes, and we’ll never know. All to say, vagueness is the stuff the universe is made of. God, or as my friend said last night, “Whatever passes for God” in your universe, is playing it coy, and this means, delightfully, that the human soul is set up to imagine difference and possibility. New haircuts. Bad choices. Sweet music. Empathy. Goodness. Grief. Cheese concoctions.
And take a breath with it now, where you are. Close your eyes. Touch your eyebrows. Now I’m just messing with you… But truly stay in this moment. Choice and fate have quarreled to lead you here, and you are safe, or will be. There is grace here. The seconds run large.”
Tenniell: “For me, definitely the way i met my future husband & father to my 4 children …we met at the skankiest pub in Geelong (my first & only time there) after deciding to go out with my uni mates on less than $20 .. I accidently bumped into him on my way to the toilets & he was just getting to the upstairs landing .. I said “sorry mate” & he replied “you’re quiet welcome, don’t do it again!” .. throughout that night we kept bumping into eachother in the packed nightclub .. at bar, walking through crowds, etc!! Here’s the kicker … the next fortnight, without any forward plans or interaction, we met again in a different pub, this time I bumped into him as I was leaving the girl’s toilets & he was waiting in the que for the men’s!! We got chatting, I was on my way back home, he said wait up, ended up doing his wee outside the pub … I met his best mate that night (who will become our kids godfather!!) … 13 years later and we’re still bestmates!!!”
Cheryl: “About a week after my wedding, I started to have dreams where I said to my Dad just before he walked me down the aisle, “Stop the wedding!” How sad. I’m not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t gotten married; I had no other plans. In 1969 you went to college and got married at 20. I did what I was expected to do.”
Tamsin: “I have 2 big ones.
1. Agreeing with my boyfriend at the time that I shouldn’t try to become a model.
2. Deciding to date the man who is now my husband, even though I’d only been single for 2 weeks after 4 years with the guy from 1.
What would alternate me have looked like? Maybe a model. Maybe a failed model. Maybe with someone else, maybe with the Viking anyway. Who knows…”
Alysha: “Choosing to leave my abusive partner when my son was 6 months old. I’m not sure that I’d still be a functioning human being if I’d stayed. And my beautiful boy certainly would have been a different person if raised in that environment.”
Tash: “Looking back, I feel like I have a few moments and decisions in life that could have gone either way, and changed everything if I’d followed the other path. I think the one that stands out the most to me, maybe because I am now middle-aged and single, is choosing my uni dreams over a boy.
I had always dreamed of going to university, in Melbourne, and leaving my home town. This was connected to what I thought I wanted to be when I grew up at the time, and this did not match with what was on offer in my home town university. Although, to be fair, I never actually considered staying in my country town. I had built a whole idea of what life would look like, living and studying in Melbourne, and that dream took hold hard.
But towards the end of Year 12 I met a boy at my part time job, who I still think could have been someone significant in my life. I wonder if I had not had my sights so firmly set on moving to the big city and going to university, whether something significant would have happened with him. Maybe I would have started uni in Melbourne still, but had a reason to return home more often, or transfer to the local university….. Maybe things would have worked out, and I could now be settled down like my peers from high school, with at least two children, and a house in one of the new estates.
But I didn’t let this potential relationship change my path, and this boy and I grew apart, and then lost contact. I met new people, new boy crushes, and followed a much wider study path than I even imagined back at school. So instead of a home selected off a developer’s plans, I am well travelled, well educated, and feel confident that I can work anywhere I want to work, anywhere in the world. But chronically single!
Sometimes I do wonder what happened to that boy, and how very different life would be now if I had followed that other potential path.”
I love love LOVE these! Thank you to all of my friends for sharing these personal, intimate and interesting journeys.
What’s your sliding doors moment? How has it shaped your life?