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Too Close to Home

An Exploration of Identity and Regret

By Bradley RamseyPublished 3 months ago 4 min read
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Image: Jason Anderson via Unsplash

There's this space between waking and dreams where anything is possible. Your mind opens itself to all the roads not taken as you stare up at the ceiling above your bed. It’s a glimpse into everything that makes you who you are.

There's comfort in that space between. It's a place where every possibility exists at once, and nothing is certain. Like staring into a mirror of the world, you can see everything you are and everything you could have been reflected back at you.

I lose track of time in that space. I let my mind pull on those narrative threads. I think about the life I had planned with her. Everything we had dreamed of together.

What does it say about me that I let myself walk those paths in my mind? Does it mean I haven't let go, or is it easier to be an observer, if only for a taste of what could have been?

It's a little of both in those moments. You don't spend a decade with someone and walk away reborn. The rebirth already happened while you were together. We built an elaborate cocoon, but it wasn’t without a cost.

You were strangers again when something new emerged.

They say you can grow together, or you can grow apart. It could be one, then the other. To say that the person I am now is the same as who I was ten years ago would be a blatant lie.

People evolve. They change, and then one day, you look in the mirror and don't recognize the face staring back at you.

So who am I then? If identity is what defines us, then what am I?

A name?

A writer?

More?

Less?

I don’t know. I have to dive deeper.

You have to be careful wandering that space between. If you dive too deep, you'll start to find the ashes of regret scattered on those untraveled roads.

The world will disappear, and you'll see other versions of yourself—more successful ones that made better decisions and realized the dream you never chased.

You'll become jealous of that other you. You'll wish you could step through that shimmering portal in the ceiling and take over.

You'd kill that other version of you if you could. Wrap your hands around their throat and choke them with all the anger and regret that flows through your veins.

After all, they haven't suffered like you have. They don't know the pain you've been through. They could never appreciate what you lost. So why didn't you? Appreciate it, I mean.

You see the paradox here, don't you?

You say you're now the person who won't take all of these things for granted, yet you didn't become that person until you lost it all.

Do you see the problem?

This is the part where I should get out of bed. I shouldn't dive any deeper. This part of the ocean is deep and filled with darkness—the ever-present question of "what if?" will swallow me whole.

What if you moved somewhere else?

That house had a history. Problems stirred beneath the glossy exterior. What if we had passed on that one? Would that have changed anything? Go ahead, dive a little deeper, I dare you.

What if you had gotten that job sooner?

You wouldn't have suffered all those months barely scraping by. You would have had more energy to dedicate to the things that mattered. Go on, keep swimming.

What if you had asked for help before it got too bad?

You could have faced your demons head-on instead of pretending they didn't exist. That could have prevented resentment's inky tendrils from sliding into every facet of your life.

What if you never lost her?

Was that unspeakable tragedy the straw that broke the camel's back? Could you have salvaged things if the fucking universe didn't take your baby from you?

What if?

What if...?

WHAT IF...?!

Here's the question you should be asking yourself:

WAS THERE EVER ANY HOPE?

Go ahead. You're already this deep; you could take a peek.

What's the matter?

You're perfectly willing to let your mind wander into all manner of fantasies that have no basis in reality.

Why would this be any different?

Or wait, is it because you're scared? If you look, then you'll know for sure. Observation collapses all the possibilities into a single outcome, after all.

Those who know Schrödinger's cat will understand. The cat is both alive and dead until you look.

Do you want to know the answer?

If you don't look, then there's still the possibility that a version of you exists somewhere, someplace, some time, where you’re happy. If you give in and dive to the bottom, you'll know the answer, but you may not like what you find.

The alarm goes off again. This is my chance to look away. To spare myself the burden of knowing.

Let me give you some advice I wish I had heard a long time ago:

Your identity is your own.

Your soul is your own.

Your choices are your own.

You are the sum of your actions.

Learn to live with it, or die with the regret.

It’s your choice, kid.

I silence the alarm. It's time for me to get up.

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About the Creator

Bradley Ramsey

Lover of dogs, gaming, and long walks on the beach. Content Marketing Manager by day, aspiring writer by night. Long time ghostwriter, finally stepping into the light. Alone, we cannot change this world, but we can create better ones.

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Comments (1)

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  • Rachel Deeming11 days ago

    I thought this was excellent. I can't believe that no-one else has commented. As a delve into the thoughts that besiege us as we wake (sometimes as we drift to sleep), this was a dive into insecurity and self-questioning that just felt so real. Subscribed.

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