Have you ever looked back at your life, wondering which of your decisions had a direct impact as to where you are now? Sure, every choice you make has the ability to influence the future, and some are more noticeable than others. Would you live somewhere else if you opted for a different college major? What would life look like if you chose to get back with your ex-partner when they pursued you again three years ago? Answers to those questions are probably deeper than the mystery of what would have happened if you ate toast for breakfast instead of a bowl of cereal.
The point to all this being you could probably track all the big things that have happened to you to a source, whether it’s one event or a series of seemed coincidences. It gets tricker, though, when you go to sleep in your bed one night and wake up in a new reality just seven hours later.
Sunday night went just as it usually did every week for me. I prepped my meals for the next few days, put on a show for background noise, and worked on my current craft project, this one being a crocheted blanket, until it was time for bed. By the time I did my nightly routine and crawled into bed, the digital clock on my side table read 11:24. I sighed, wishing tomorrow wasn’t Monday and that I didn’t have to go to the job that no longer brought me joy in the morning. I shifted to my side, gazed at the moonlight coming in the slats of my window blinds, and eventually fell asleep.
When I awoke to my alarm at 6:30, something felt immediately off. I was in the same bedroom, wrapped up in the same sheets, but everything looked more refined. Instead of white contractor grade blinds shielding the daylight from leaking in, chiffon curtain panels were in their place. Weird, but it was early, and I was in no mood to investigate the mystery window dressings, so I threw the bed covers off only to discover I was in different pajamas than I knew I put on the night before. They were, for lack of a better word, nice. I’ve never been a nice pajama person, no matter how much I wanted to be. I always felt much more comfortable sleeping in an oversized t-shirt and years-old lounge pants, which is why I was surprised to now be wearing a sage green satin (could it be silk?) coordinating set.
I rubbed my eyes and lightly slapped my face to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Neither of those actions changed what I was seeing, so I quickly made my way across the hall to the bathroom to take a better look at myself in the mirror. I was relieved to see my own familiar face, though it wasn’t quite the same as I remembered. The furrow in my brow wasn’t as pronounced and there was less redness in my skin, but the starkest difference I saw was my hair. What was once a medium brown bob was now long, shiny, and beautiful. My body also felt stronger and firmer, like I had an actual fitness routine I had been following for awhile, when in reality, my gym attendance can best be described as sporadic.
My phone pinged with a notification: 37 more likes on my latest Instagram post overnight. I hardly ever received that many likes on any post, so I hopped over to the app to see what was going on. The likes were on a picture of me that I didn’t remember taking. I was sitting at a local coffee shop, legs crossed, posed with a mug held by my lips. I had on a long black dress with a tan jacket, neither of which I owned, and the caption credited someone I didn’t know as the person behind the camera. I clicked to their profile and saw it was a woman my age. Scrolling through her feed, I popped up in a few of her photos. Working with context clues, I figured she must be a close friend of mine. Just before I closed my phone to sit and think about how nothing in my life was how I remembered, I saw the time and date stamp on my home screen say “Sunday, May 1. 6:49 AM.” That was when last night’s wish rushed back to me. I had indeed willed it to be Sunday again, and I had a different life.
So many thoughts and questions ran through my head at this point. What all was different? What did I do for a living in this reality? Did I still have all my same friends and family with the additions of some new faces? My god, did I still have my cat? I ran out of my bathroom to find my familiar feline companion napping in her favorite position on top of the living room accent chair. I gave her a squeeze, and she didn’t appear to enjoy the disturbance. At least there was one constant between these lives so far.
After looking through my phone some more, I found all my contacts and photos on my camera roll stayed in tact, so I started texting important people: my mom, my best friend, my boyfriend, to see if something similar was happening to them. What I got back made my stomach twist.
Mom: Sweetie, are you okay? Did you drink too much with your girlfriends last night? Maybe some more sleep will do you some good.
Best friend: LOL, you must be on something. Whatever it is, can you give it to me too?
A few hours of impatient waiting later…
Boyfriend: Sorry, who is this? I think you have the wrong number. Hope you figure things out though!
Shit. This reality was far different in ways I did not enjoy. While my mom and best friend were still with me in this life, the guy I had been in a relationship with for a year was not. We were really serious, considering moving in together when our leases ended kind of serious. To have lost him so suddenly was not something I was ready to grapple with. In an effort to distract myself, I did something I never thought I’d have to do: virtually stalk myself to figure out who this version of me was.
I started with a simple Google search. My name brought up some results I was familiar with, but also an article saying I was an up and coming local artist. I started selling my work at fairs around the city and it was growing into a pretty profitable business. The article cited a quote from me, “You know, it is really exciting to see people interested in my paintings. It started out as a hobby, I never thought I could live off it full time.” Paintings? I barely passed a painting class in high school with a B, let alone painted anything anyone would want on their walls. At some point, I must have taken more classes to grow my skills.
I combed through my social media and found I curated my online presence very carefully. I had a specific aesthetic on Instagram, constantly going places and posting planned “candid” pictures with new people. It appeared I was really enjoying this life, however I got here. I wondered if this version of me woke up in the reality I was used to, if she would think I was boring for the job I had and the small group of people I communicated with.
Then I had the idea to check my bank account. I was living well in this life, it would surely be reflected in my finances, right? That’s why I was surprised when I saw my checking account balance dangerously low, right along with my savings. My credit card balance, however, was incredibly high and payments were consistently late. I quickly realized that this version of me was so wrapped up in how people viewed her that she somehow lost her usually stable footing.
At this point, hours have passed and it was already early afternoon. I was still in my nice green pajamas, barely having moved from the unfamiliar couch I was sitting on, wondering how I got here. Even though I had so many questions, I knew one thing for sure: I didn’t want to live in this reality. All I could see was myself feigning success to try achieving real success. Fake it ’til you make it was not working for this alternate version of me. I did the only thing I could do at this point, lay down on the couch, close my eyes, and wish to go back to the way things used to be.
All that wishing must’ve led me to dreamland, because the next thing I knew, I was slowly blinking my eyes open. It was daylight, I was still on my living room couch, but I was back in my oversized t-shirt and lounge pants. The cushions beneath my body looked more familiar. I put a hand to my hair, it was short again. My phone lit up with a notification, just a marketing email. But underneath that was a text from my boyfriend timestamped at 11:27 PM on Sunday: Goodnight babe, love you too!
It was Monday morning, 6:33 AM. I was back in my reality. Was it a dream? Possibly, but then how did I end up on the couch instead of tucked into the bed? I don’t think I’ll ever know the answer to that question, but I do know that I’m happy where I’m at. I have people that truly love me, the ability to support myself, and a newfound appreciation for the decisions I made that brought me to where I’m at now. Still, I wonder: what choice did I make that separated this life and that one? Whatever it was, I’m glad I made it.