I recently completed my longest ever solo bike ride of 82 kilometers. As I rode up to the gate of our apartment complex, a wave of relief washed over me. I can finally stop pedaling, the pain is over.
Milestones like these usually leave us with a feeling of accomplishment. We did it. It’s a proud moment, or it should be. But all I felt was grief, grief for my old life, grief for what might have been.
See, what I didn’t tell you is that I was the slowest one on the ride, that there were so many times when I wanted to quit and I felt ashamed because of it.
I am a cyclist by association, but it’s all a fraud. My true identity lies in the hoof prints in the sand, and the dirt under my fingernails. It’s grimy, messy, and knows no schedule, and the work is as unpredictable as the horses who dictate it.
The night after I completed that bike ride I grieved for that dirty, beautiful, unpredictable life I left behind. The one filled with horses, fresh air, and friends brought together through a common love. For the dreams and passions that got put on hold to live a life I never wanted and am wholly in love with.
I started to wonder what might have been. As pointless as I know it is, I started to wonder, once again, what would have happened had we not chosen to pursue a life as expats. The possibilities are endless, so how do we know which is the right path?
The scary answer is that there is no right path, and that’s the part that keeps me wondering. We’re always told to follow our dreams, no matter what, but what if life takes us in a different direction? Should we go with the flow or paddle against it?
I chose to row downstream, to think that even when the rapids whisk me into the rocks and the current pulls me under that the bruises will heal and I will float on top of the water in a version of life I never even knew existed. I chose to take every opportunity handed to me, even those off the beaten path. But I still question if that was the right decision, because I see so many different paths to walk down, with endless amazing experiences to be had, and no guarantees as to which one is the best for me.
What if what you think you want isn’t what makes you happy and fulfilled? What if what you think you want isn’t what you actually want at all, but just the only path society has shown you to walk down? This doesn’t mean it’s a bad path. It’s well worn, comfortable, and comes with a predefined notion of success. It’s the path I left behind, and despite how hard I try, it’s the one I still look back on thinking “what if?”.
If only we could live in both worlds simultaneously, testing out these alternate lives to find our best path.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the one person who can never have it all. Like the majority of people have either achieved their dreams or are working towards them, while I’m always the puzzle with a missing piece.
But maybe the truth is that despite outward appearances nobody ever feels like they have it all. Maybe no matter how great our lives are, we all can’t help but wonder what might have been.