Looking back, it seems like some of the best times in life are the ones when you were faced with a whole multitude of different possibilities. The first day of school, graduation, your wedding day, moving to a new city, taking a new job…. These were the points you made a change or a decision that shaped the person you were going to be.
The most overused metaphor in this situation is the fork in the road, the character standing on the edge of that monotonous, boring pathway and staring off into the distance, musing at the number of lines diverging from where they stood. They also usually mention some kind of portent of greatness, or fear of the unknown, or a brief longing to turn back on the familiar, before the hero ultimately decides to take the path of greatest resistance.
Notice though, how after that point the hero almost never thinks back on that moment and says to themself, “I could always go back and take that other path–the one on the left, or maybe that middle one–another time. Who says it has to be just the one path? Why not finish up with this one and then explore a couple more options? And while we’re at it, who said I had to stay on this damn path anyway? Can’t I cut across the fields?”
Of course, this sentiment is coming from the person who used to cheat while reading those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. Whenever I got to one of those fork pages, I’d turn down the page so I could come back in case I didn’t like the ending. Or heck, just in case I wanted to start over from where I left off, instead of the beginning. Consequently in most other aspects of life I never really learned how to accept the inevitability of my choices like “normal” people do, with no questioning the fairness of the results, and with no wiggle room.
That’s why, I suppose, I’m continually in a state of renovation. Like an old building that keeps getting remodeled, only each wing is in a different style. Every time I start to lean toward completion, I start coming up with new ideas of how that one area could really use a little sprucing up, and I’ll have plenty of time to come back to this one later. But maybe it’s not artistic ADD or an inability to commit to just one theme… maybe it’s fear. Maybe I’m just terrified of being finished, of coming to the end of the story.
(By the way, if you’ve lost track of the number of metaphors I’ve used in this post, the total is three. And if you want to use that as yet another metaphor for my seeming inability to remain monothematic, you just go right ahead.)
Regardless of the implication or the frequency of the metaphor, my intrepid main character now finds herself standing at one of these pesky forking roads, and here are the questions running through her mind:
Is it wrong to go through life as a constant work in progress, never becoming complete, even if it’s by choice? Should I start limiting myself to one path if I’m ever to achieve my true potential? Can I do this without feeling trapped? Or should I just sabotage all of the other roads except one, so I no longer have to wonder what would’ve happened if I’d gone down the others?
Should I just rip out the pages to stop myself from flipping back through in search of another ending?
Should I bomb the parts of the house that don’t seem to fit with one overall, coherent design?
Are there any more metaphors I can think of that might better illustrate my point?