Have you ever had one of those sliding door moments? You know the moments. The ones when if you’d said yes or if you’d said no to a question or an opportunity, your life would have been irrevocable set tumbling headlong down a new path from where there was no return. This happened to me one day when I was staring at the sea.
On a cold a damp November afternoon we pressed the button on the laptop confirming our flight booking. Another gap year. Another adventure. This time there was more hesitation, more anticipation and more uncertainty. We had successfully applied for a working holiday in Australia and after that the plan was hazy.
After a few months of travelling around Asia and surviving the hostel life, we landed in Australia and made our way to the Sunshine Coast. Unknowing to us at that time, that was the first step that would lead to our sliding door moment. I wonder if at this point, we realised how fortunate we were and heartbroken we would be. We then spent a few weeks on my brother’s pull-out sofa deciding what to do with our lives.
Eventually, I found a job. I sold timeshare and I earnt more money than I’ve ever done in my whole life. Life was good. Beaches, beers and good friends. Sunsets, sunshine and travel plans. If you haven’t been to the East Coast of Australia as a backpacker, I’m sorry but you just won’t understand. There is something in the sea salt air, as it twists and lodges itself into your skin and your hair, it sinks into your heart and straight into your soul. The smell of freedom has never smelt so strong. The taste of a carefree day is palpable and the sight of another life, vivid and in full colour is always in touching distance. That’s the magic of Australia. That’s the magic of the East Coast.
From bus pass to bus pass, the weeks sped by one bus stop after the other. Life zooming past, shared with others and intermittently decorated with the sound of the sea. It was another life, but it was my life.
Yet, I missed my family. I don’t just mean Birthdays and Christmas. I mean the BBQ’s on a Sunday, sitting in the late May sunshine, talking about everything and nothing. I mean Friday nights at the pub and Saturdays spent with a takeaway and a good film. I mean the growth of grey hair and ageing. I missed it all.
And it was then in my height of nostalgia, as I was staring at the sea, I was asked my sliding door question. My moment of no return. Did I want to be sponsored? Would I like my working holiday visa to become permanent? Would I like to make Australia my new life?
No. My life was then set out on a new course, or perhaps it was the way it was always meant to be, forging forward at lightspeed. My sliding door closing on a moment in time. The door forever sealed. Life went on.
We went back to our Australian home this year and as I walked along the beach boardwalk, tracing my steps and chasing ghosts, I reflected on our decision to leave and I couldn’t help but think, what would our lives have been like if we had stayed? And you know, I just couldn’t even imagine. But that’s the point of our ‘other lives’ our ‘unlived lives’. They are dead and gone. They die when we make our sliding door decision. They die because we don’t breathe life into them, they become the lives we could have lived.
All of this made me think about the lives we live now. Today is all we are promised, this day, our life right now, it’s all we’ve got. We can’t think about what might have been or even too much about what might be, because it’s all so delicate. It’s all so exciting. So unlived. We get to breathe life into whatever we choose, whomever we choose. We get to live this story, this life and it’s so completely precious.
As we continued to explore our forgotten home town, we went past our old apartment. I crossed the road and looked at the front entrance and then back to my husband.
“The doors open, shall I go in?“.
What about you? Can you pick out those moments? The no or the yes that changed your life? What would your story from another life be? Would it better? Would it be worse?
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