The Thing I Like About …

Star Trek: The Next Generation: the one where Worf leaps into parallel realities.

Lt. Worf has somehow fallen into a thin spot in space – a place where he crosses out of his own quantum reality and into another, and then another, and then another. At first, his experiences are simple enough to be explained by fatigue; his birthday cake is chocolate and then it’s vanilla. A painting is on one wall, but then suddenly it’s on another. Things he thought he had done somehow hadn’t been done after all. He’s perplexed, but willing to chalk it up to needing rest.

But then he discovers that his friend Deanna is his wife.

As he continues to shift from one reality to the next, he learns that he and Deanna have two children together … and that his son Alexander has never existed here.

Worf is given a glimpse into what-might-have-been, into the outcomes of other choices. He sees the loving relationship he could have with Deanna. He sees the children he could have with her. He sees new and different ways to decorate his living quarters.

But if he wants these things, he has to let go of what he already has – his son.

People in the real world spend – oh, I suppose a good chunk of our lives, really – wondering what might have been. We think about our choices and imagine that other choices would have been preferable. We regret. We bemoan. We pine for things that never were and blame ourselves for our poor decisions. People in the real world are always looking for that thin-spot-in-space that will allow us to start over and do something differently.

But what would we be giving up?

We don’t really know all the ways that events are interconnected, or the positive outcomes of our negative experiences. We evaluate events based on whether or not we felt embarrassed or scared, rather than on whether we really have made a mistake or done something wrong. We take for granted the things and people around us, and spend far too much time wishing for all that we left behind when we chose what we chose. We act as though we can’t choose new things now, so that instead of moving forward, we’re living in our own alternate pasts and missing out on our real lives.

When Worf finds the thin-spot-in-space, he learns pretty quickly that he preferred his own reality, and that he would do anything to get back to his son. When he has the opportunity to live with what-might-have-been, he wants nothing more than to return to what-actually-happened. He does move forward upon his return – toying with the notion of starting a relationship with Deanna – but all the wonderful things that other Worfs had done in other realities paled next to the prospect of missing his son’s life.

How much time do you spend wondering about what-might-have-been?

What are you missing out on while you do that?

And, if you really could go back and do something differently, what – or who – would you lose?

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