Sunday, 12 February 2012


Far away in another galaxy, it would have been my 40th anniversary today. Such games are absolutely pointless, and yet we cannot help it. What would my life have been? Whatever it might have been, it would have been very, very different.

I am fascinated by the idea of a new universe being born every second someone makes a choice, but it would be quite hard to trace all yout might-have-beens. Not even if you just trace you own choices. Perhaps just major choices. I very nearly wasn't born to begin with, but I didn't have much choice there. I believe my very first, and fatal, choice was when I applied for wrong education, but it turned out ok after all. If I had chosen the education my mother had chosen for me, I wouldn't have learned Swedish, so it would have been an early dead end toward my present life. I chose to have a child when everybody was telling me I had to think about my career. Had I chosen otherwise, I'd have some sort of career today, I guess, but no son?? No, thank you. Keep that parallel world. A choice I regret was that I retunred to live with my grandmother instead of getting a place of my own. In that universe, I simply cannot imagine what might have happened. Would I have jumped out of the window one night?

I have played a lot of counterfactual games about my move to Sweden, but there are too many factors after this bifurcation. I think I would have been an eminent translator now, maybe even a writer. I would not have been in academia.

At one point of my Swedish life I was seriously deciding to quit all academic work and become a full-time writer.(Obviously the academic/creative bifurcation has always haunted me). I don't even want to imagine what such a decision might have led to. I am convinced that I am a better academic than I might have been a writer.

If we hadn't chosen to go to California for a year (that turned out to be two years) we wouldn't have been here today: it was a dress rehearsal. For our youngest children, it was arguably the most important choice of their lives, and they weren't even asked.

It has now been a week since we were adopted by a cat who has now revealed to us that her next-secret name is Miranda. I don't want to think of a parallel world in which we hadn't.


Julia said...

I am very grateful for the years in California.

And I'm glad you studied Swedish.

Jude Inggs said...

Parallel worlds have always fascinated me too. The first event was when I decided, against my better judgment, to go to an "emancipation disco" in the winter of 1974. There I met my first husband, the father of my three children. It was a chance encounter and I always remember brushing my teeth that evening, thinking "What if something happens tonight that changes my life". It did, and three children later, and after 26 years in South Africa - also only because I married that first love - here I am still, and of course, forever joyful that I had those three children. I think I would probably not have moved into translation, had I stayed in the UK, and I think I would have moved further into Russian literature and Russian studies. My three children, of course, would have grown up in Cardiff, instead of Joburg, had we not moved here. I think, despite the choice not being theirs, that they benefited from growing up in a cosmopolitan city, rather than a rather parochial Wales. I can't imagine what my life would have been like had I not moved to South Africa, or theirs. Oh, and my father didn't want my mother to run a wool/baby clothes shop, and so she had me instead...