All Choices Are Final
Ideas can be deceivingly appealing in utero. Here, all is possible. Here, just as in a human life, we can imagine only an idea’s most pleasing parts. The writer can be like a parent dreaming of an unborn child’s future – imagining if it is a girl that she might be a dancer, if it is a boy that he might be an architect – and then seeing in rapid succession the snapshots of this unlived life: the walking, the graduating, the marrying, the achieving, and of the course the adoring of the parent. So too is it with an unwritten book. Now our protagonist is a man; now it is a woman. Now he is a pirate captain; now she is piloting a boat solo around the world. We can see the snapshots of that which is unwritten, the scenes and characters that came to us first, and the great wide swaths of unwritten scenes and unmet characters are easily relegated to that which will be figured out later.
But, just like with that child, eventually life and its unflinching demand for specificity insinuates itself on these unbridled ideas. Eventually the child will be born a boy or a girl and, barring surgery, remains so forever more, living with all the benefits of the one and without the benefits of the other. Eventually, we will have to choose if our protagonist is a hero or a heroine, what they do, how they talk, what they love and what they don’t. And eventually all those great wide open swaths of unwritten scenes will have to be written, filling in those emptinesses with choices that are always one thing and therefore not another.
For many years, I disliked this narrowness life required of me. In many ways, I preferred life in my imagination where anything was still possible, where I might still be an orchestral composer or a film director or an Olympic athlete. It’s not that those things were better than where I felt pulled, but to rule them out for good seemed, mathematically, to only make life lesser, not more.
Eventually, I began to face those swaths of unwritten scenes, and discovered that their emptiness and commensurate potential no longer satisfied me. A handful of seeds is no meal. There was the smallest twinge of sadness when I said goodbye to the composer, to the Olympic hurdler, but just as quickly it was replaced with curiosity as I leaned forward to meet what had been born.
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