Last night I indulged in a bit of nostalgia and watched 'Sliding Doors' with Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah. I can't believe it was released in 1998 and if you haven't seen this film, where have you been for the last nineteen years?
For those of you who haven't seen this classic romantic comedy/drama, the film alternates between two parallel universes, based on the two paths the central character's life (Helen) could take depending on whether or not she catches a train, causing different outcomes in her life.
When I first saw this film, I was only 18 and it was just another rom-com, it bared no resemblance to my life or my relationship at the time. I wanted Gwyneth's hair-cut, I dreamed of setting up my own PR agency in London and I wanted to marry someone just like James (John Hannah) who was funny, kind, generous and loving.
So, fired from her top London PR job, Helen's (Gwyneth) parallel universe begins once she leaves the office with only her dignity left intact, Helen No. 1 catches the train and Helen No. 2 misses the train home. Helen No.1 returns home earlier than planned to find her boyfriend in bed with his American lover mid-coitus, whilst Helen No.2 gets caught up in an attempted mugging and spends the afternoon in A&E. On returning home Helen No.2 has just missed the lover leaving, thus never realising the infidelity of her partner.
It got me thinking about my 'Sliding Doors' moment and what my parallel universe would look like.
If I hadn't confronted my [then] husband about him spending too much time with his best friend Charlotte (not her real name) at a friend's wedding, would we still be together? On the wedding day, having been ignored and left to my own devices I went to find my husband, who I found on the dance floor twirling Charlotte around like they didn't have a care in the world... where would I be now if I hadn't tapped him on the shoulder?
I can almost certainly say I wouldn't be the person I am today. As I look in the mirror today I am proud of the woman I have become, as the old me avoided mirrors as I was so ashamed of what I had let myself lose- my passion, drive, ambition, fun-loving personality, I even lost my smile.
If I was Sarah No.2, I can't say for a fact, but I would guess that my husband would still tell Charlotte he loved her when they talked on the phone even if I was sat next to him, I would still be childless as he didn't want kids with me, I would still feel inadequate, I would still spend my Saturday nights at friend's houses watching my drunk husband flirt with our neighbour.
Inevitably we were destined not to be together and he was destined to eventually marry his best friend, I just got in the way for six years.
As you may be able to guess, my marriage wasn't a happy one, but I was willing to make it work as I didn't want to fail. I had failed in lots of other ways before the end of my marriage including career, finance and weight-loss to name but a few, I didn't want to add 'failed marriage' to the list. If I was Sarah No.2, I believe that I would still end up single and humiliated, but just a few years later than planned. Something had to give and may be the universe chose for me.
Last night, I found myself laughing along with Helen and James when he pushes her to set up her own PR company following her split from her last company and cheating boyfriend. Helen reasons on the 'why take the risk' - "I could fail miserably and look like a complete tosser" to which James replies, "Exactly, so what is there to worry about?".
Following the end of my marriage, I was totally broken, I was that 'failed tosser'. I spent about two months not working and trying to get my head around being bankrupt, homeless and feeling completely worthless. With the love and support I received from my friends and family, I began to really focus on my graphic design business, turning over a very healthy five-figure income in just five months, then six-figures the following year. My health is better, my drive and ambition are back to full capacity and I am happy and content with what I have and what I have to offer the world.
Although I have been through hell and back, I wouldn't want to spend a single day in my imagined parallel universe. I lost everything but gained a whole lot more.