What If?

Tonight a friend asked a small group to consider an alternative reality.  If we were not in the work we currently do (all four in the circle work in higher education), what would we do instead?  Money was not a barrier, but we also weren’t allowed to just lounge on the beach all day.  Its a great question because its the one we ask students to consider when they start a degree: Who do you want to be?

As I pondered the question, my first unspoken response was to be a singer on Broadway.  To break hearts as Eponine, dance through the masquerade as Christine, or question the future while stuck to the stairs as Cinderella would be just amazing.  But then I remembered the critique from a college friend that I had a voice that would be good for a choir.  She didn’t answer when I asked how big of a choir.  So maybe instead of Broadway, this diva will have to keep to singing in the shower and dancing during commutes to Longview (its 54 minutes; gotta keep amused).

So instead I shifted to a second answer: a writer.  I’ve previously shared that at night, I let go of the stress of the day by working on a story exploring situations far from my real life.  Instead of trying to respond about a student’s failed course or resolve major issues in a paper I’m writing; I imagine how Amelia will deal with Nicholas’s pending tour and the invitation to join him.  He offered to stay if she would only ask, but asking means trusting he won’t leave again.  Or what if she took the leap and traveled with him, that would mean leaving her best friends, and their baby due any time, and the job she has worked for 10 years to develop.  Instead she had been silent, and now hated herself for it…but that’s still a chapter in progress.

When I was first “writing” these stories, they tended to just be retellings of a movie or television show.  In the past few years, they have become more about a situation and exploring a “what if” that keeps me engaged for a few months.  If I’m being honest, as I was tonight with my friends in person so why not some cyberspace friends as well, there is often a small romantic element to the stories.  But since my knowledge of romance basically comes from the Disney Channel, I’m not even sure if it gets to G-rated.  Its basically first kiss and then..squirrel.

The good stories will last for a few months, sometimes even keeping me entertained during those long Longview drives.  When they finally end, its a loss, not only of story and characters, but also of an investment that seems to have no tangible result.  There are scenes that I spend several nights working through as I wake the next morning, realizing that the characters acted against their nature or a conversation revealed more than the story was ready for.  Even with the regret, its better to let the story ride off into the sunset rather than hold on too long and be bored with my own creation.  It may take a few weeks, but there are other stories to explore.

I hope one day to actually find the time to write them out in the real world rather than on my eyelids and ceiling tiles.  There just might be others who want to know what happens after two strangers spend an entire night wandering New York City.

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