As human beings, we remember a surprising amount about the lives we have lived. As human beings we also have an astonishing ability to forget. We forget all manner of facts and events, happy ones, painful ones, and many which never make enough of an impression to stick. And then there are things we forget for convenience, a deep-seated need to avoid discouraging ourselves with memories of that which never came to be, the things we never did, the people we never became.
It doesn’t take much to refresh your memories of these matters. A casual afternoon reverie, thinking back to long lost friends, absent comrades, and fading conversations, and you will suddenly stumble into it, that vast graveyard of your abandoned plans.
In that moment, you will remember it all with startling clarity. The ideas, the musings, the conversations that led to them, and the people who were to be your partners in the various missions that lie in that hidden expanse of your mind, abandoned. Some of them are fresh and clean, some more ancient and decrepit, but almost all of them still gleam with that original promise, that possibility of something marvellous.
Alas, in most cases your cohorts have moved on, or maybe they were never serious to begin with, or they were serious and life led them down another path, or you were lazy, or they were lazy, or the idea was a bad one, or the idea was a good one but you or they or the collective We convinced each other that it wasn’t. Or you were scared.
What you never realise in time is that for everything and everyone to come together requires a miracle of nature, a stroke of luck against the odds, order in the musical chaos. So the graveyard of your plans grows ever more bountiful, with grand headstones proclaiming, “Here lies the greatest idea ever wrought, daughter of …” and there appears your name in stone, along with the names of the other progenitors of what lies forgotten beneath. As you walk from stone to stone, your name is repeated, those named with you change, and so to you the loss seems unjustly yours above anyone else’s.
Are we then to give up on the very urge to birth ideas and make plans? No, but one solution is in being selfish and keeping some plans for yourself. Make them not the offspring of fortuitous pairings but instead a part of you, an inseparable piece whose development is tied to your being. Have some plans that are yours alone, and which you alone can mould. Have some plans whose success and failure are your burden, and whose abandonment is your considered decision.
Have more of these plans and act on them. With a little will, and the sheer mathematical certainty of having reduced the variables in the equation, some of your plans will flourish, and new things will grow. Whether small thorny bushes, or a sprawling canopy, it will be life and other life will appear in its shade. Some lost opportunities will become new possibilities, your actions will encourage others, erstwhile cohorts and curious strangers alike, and graveyards will be forests.