Our Other Possible Lives

And why it’s not worth pondering about

Hoang Samuelson
5 min readSep 9, 2022
Photo by Angel Luciano on Unsplash

One of the things that still perplexes me to this day is why we, as humans, tend to think about other potential lives. Movies have been made about alternate realities, things that have gone wrong or that could’ve gone differently (example: The Family Man). Books have been written, leading us down the path toward other lives that are (seemingly) better than the one the protagonist is in (example: The White Tiger). And let’s not count the endless TV shows where the main characters take a journey toward another path.

In December 2020, The New Yorker published an article written by staff writer Joshua Rothman titled “What If You Could Do It All Over?” The question/title explores the myriad ways into the unknown, one that could lead to a philosophical debate about how things could be better or different than what we are currently experiencing.

My favorite part was this quote:

“Most of us aren’t haunted so acutely by the people we might have been. But, perhaps for a morning or a month, our lives can still thrum with the knowledge that it could have been otherwise. “You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife,” David Byrne sings, in the Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime.” “And you may ask yourself, ‘Well, how did I get here?’ ”

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Hoang Samuelson

Features Editor @ Chowhound. Former lead editor @BooknBrunch.com. Writer of food, family and fiction. Based in Portland, OR. More at hoangsamuelson.com