I don’t think there’s any word in the English language that holds as much meaning, questions, romance, and imagination – at the same time! – as that one, simple, seven-letter word.
It can be used in a lot of situations, of course. “Are you coming tonight?” “Do you like her?” “What if…?”
But maybe the most important thing of all about ‘perhaps’ is its innate significance for any one of us. We all have our lives; for better or for worse, they are ours, and we are blessed – or cursed – with living out the full sentence of our existence on Earth. Some believe in fate, others are more free-wheeling. But in the end, it doesn’t matter – we make choices, pre-willed or otherwise, that determine, define, sketch out our lives. If we begin life as a baby at 0%, by the time we take our last breath our life-o-meter has been filled to 100%, and our story can be written.
Life is never smooth, though. It’s not a simple ‘go from point A to point B’ exercise. Every day, every waking minute, perhaps every second, we make both conscious and unconscious decisions that affect everything about us: appearance, speech, frame of mind, relationships.
For example, what would’ve happened if I had not gone to this particular university in Madison, Wisconsin? What kinds of new friends would I have made, what kinds of jobs would I possess, what types of clothing would I be wearing? Would I still be 5’10” and 180 pounds? Would my favorite food still be anything Mexican?
And going even further, what could’ve gone differently had I eaten lunch today at a different place than usual? What new people could I possibly have met, what new food could I have tried, what sorts of improbable-yet-fantastic things could’ve happened to me on the way there?
The mere act of imagining all the possible combinations that could’ve gone different always send my brain into a tailspin. For better or for worse, we’ve made our decisions – hundreds of thousands of them – and we’re here, now, as a result of those actions.
But – just imagine, for a few seconds – what could’ve turned out differently? If I had made one different turn, spoken a hair’s moment too early, asked just a few minutes later, had stepped outside just a few minutes ago? There’s something thrilling about imagining a whole new world for yourself, a world that just might’ve replaced the boring one you have now – if only had you made that one decision differently!
I’d like everyone to think about that for a few minutes – about the simple massive-ness of our existence, and despite the virtually limitless amounts of paths we have taken, we chose to take this one, and as a result, you are here, right now, reading this blog.
Now, take a look at your friends – your enemies – your family. How did you meet them? How did you become friends? How did you fall in love? Take all of those moments that brought your relationships together, and imagine everything that could’ve gone wrong to prevent that from happening. What if you decided to leave the room one second too early? What if … and so on and so forth. (What if I had decided to go on rambling? Would you still be reading this?)
On the other side of the coin, perhaps you would’ve found new friends. Perhaps you would’ve fallen in love with someone else, and perhaps you would be happier in that alternate universe, since that person you love wouldn’t make a habit of ignoring you like the dozens of similar-minded folks crowding by her side.
That’s the great beauty of the Great Perhaps. There’s no wrong answer; no good versus evil, no definite chosen path. I’m here because of my actions, and there’s something immensely comforting in that. But there’s also something exciting in, at the same time, admitting that you’re only here because you’ve chosen to, and dreaming about what could’ve been – had you just chosen to go left instead of right.