All The Lives I Didn’t Live
Updated: Apr 4
My dad has been bringing up the concept of an inner barometer for about as long as I can remember. He's a spiritual guy, a person with a lifestyle I didn't always understand and who threw around terms that were somewhat enigmatic. He'd say it so casually, "you have to listen to your inner barometer," meanwhile I didn't even know what a barometer was at the time. It seemed like he figured I'd just get it, be able to catch this boomerang in midair.
When it came to choices, I took what he said literally, listening inward for a sign. There was radio static on the other end. I concluded that there was something wrong with my barometer. I'd tap the glass and the needle would point rigidly. Then it would go crazy, swinging in all sorts of directions. I never really knew what I wanted because I wanted too many things. For this reason, I grew up confused; distrustful towards myself and this inner mechanism that was more like a directionless piece of junk.
In 2010, I was a freshman in college (undeclared, naturally) and without much of an inkling what would become of me after I graduated. Most professions outside of college included long commutes in the morning traffic jam, pressed suits and grey cubicle walls. This ideology of a "real" job horrified me. Yet I believed it was the only option.
I loved writing, and while it’s something I’ve done consistently throughout life, I had been plagued by stories of the starved artist. Those who followed their dreams and threw practicality to the wind. I was ok with being a loser who loved to write, but I didn't want to be a writer who was destined to lose.
Directional questions came with easy answers for my peers while they were drawn over in my mind by opaque clouds of grey. As those around me seemed to see clearly through an optimistic warmth of day, I watched a storm roll in.
"I wonder, 'does anyone else get this feeling of being permanently lost?'"
Four years passed in an instant and I became a product of post-graduate panic. The feelings of inadequacy set in almost immediately after I shook the Dean’s hand and walked off the stage with my degree.
The twenties passed equally as fast in stages of change. I lived multiple lives in the forms of the professions I took. My thing was out there, somewhere, though it was a matter of searching that thing out. I tapped my barometer for a sign or suggestion. It spat out some dust.
Through this strange, chaotic journey I've found that while there are so many directions to choose from, none have felt quite right. It gives the illusion that there is, in fact, no choice available. If nothing works in the long term, then what do you have? While I still watch people seemingly move forward without any question, I wonder 'does anyone else get this feeling of being permanently lost?'
It's easy to look at all the different directions you could have walked in life and wonder what might have been. For those of us with broken barometers, there are too many choices and not enough time in a one life to try them all out. There are simply too many things, too many places to live; too many jobs to do, too many distractions to bypass, too many types of people to become.
And every choice leads into a different direction. It is not always a 180 degree pivot, sometimes it's a millimeter. A slight trajectory change that starts off as a minimal shift unnoticeable to the naked eye. As time passes, the lines diverge farther and farther from each other, the space grows between the path lines. Soon you look back and realize how much has changed from that time. That this minute detail has made your life unrecognizable.
When you’re too busy thinking about all the things you could have done, you lose track of all that you have accomplished. One such thing that is no easy feat is having the guts to try.
It's now 2022, twelve years since I started college. I have learned a thousand lessons about life, though what I have come to realize most clearly is how little I knew then and still don't know at this present moment. Who's to say where this path leads in five, ten or twenty years time. Sometimes, you pick what feels right and when all is said and done, that's the one true barometer you've got.