Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Life You Don't Lead

I was all set to write a thrilling post about my writing space, my return to green text on black screens, and my rediscovery of keyboards with real mechanical switches, when I changed my mind.

Nothing happened to change my mind. I didn't have some kind of bloggy epiphany, there was no burning mouse that spoke to me and told me to write something else.  I just decided to write about the choices we don't make instead.

I think if you look at enough of an author's work, you'll find common themes in their writing.  Hemingway was obsessed with the idea of masculinity and the ideal man, Melina Marchetta seems to keep returning to the complex relationships that hold families together (real and the ones we create for ourselves), Hannah Moskowitz explores the bonds between brothers in all of her published works...I could go on and on. Maybe in another post I will.

I used to believe that in my own work, I returned to the carpe diem theme.  And to a degree, I do.  The Deathday Letter is practically a love letter to The Dead Poet's Society, and the forthcoming FML is all about seizing the day (or night as it were).  But while those are the two books that are published (or soon to be published in the case of FML), I have books that I've written and put in a drawer, books that I hope to publish in the future, and ideas for stories that I've yet written.  And they made me realize that while I use the concept of carpe diem in my work, what I'm actually exploring is the idea of the life we don't lead.  The choices we don't make.

Whenever I think back on my life and the mistakes I've made, I tell myself that each of those choices led me to where I am right now.  Right at this moment.  Since I'm happy right now, even my mistakes weren't really mistakes at all, but experiences from which I've learned and grown.  Sure, there are some things in my life I wish I hadn't done. Definitely some things I'm not particularly proud of.  But each of those choices, those decisions, is a brick in the foundation of my life.

You can't live your life by the choices you haven't made, only by the ones you have.

That philosophy is pretty clear, though not well defined, in Deathday.  Ollie, upon learning of his imminent demise is spurred on by his friends to live in the now. To live as if he has no tomorrow...because, of course, he does not.  However, it's in my forthcoming FML that the philosophy really begins to take shape. The story of Simon Cross isn't merely the story of a young man trying to tell the girl he loves how he truly feels about her, it's a story of the path not taken. In life, we rarely get to see how our lives would have turned out if we'd turned left instead of right.  If we'd said yes instead of chickening out and saying no.  But in FML, we'll get to see both of those paths. One seemingly innocent choice propels Simon down two very different paths. Of course, it's not nearly as simple as all that. Because sometimes different roads lead to the same place, and sometimes they lead in opposite directions.  Sometimes, the road you're on isn't the road you thought it was.  And that's what FML is about. Exploring those paths.

I think the reason I keep coming back to this theme is because of how fascinating it is.  Looking back at a person's life, examining their choices and inability to make choices isn't about regret.  It's about viewing life as an opportunity.  Because you can't lead the life you're not living, but every choice you make gives you the opportunity to change that.  No matter what choices a person has made in their life, no matter how old they are or where they're living or what their job is, they can always choose to change.

Every choice is a turning point, and life is full of choices.  One wrong turn isn't the end of the world, and sometimes getting lost can turn into the most wonderful of adventures.

Maybe I'll write about my new keyboard next time, or maybe I'll just change my mind again and see where the cursor takes me.

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