A number of anxieties may arise when one considers the multiverse. Personally, I wonder whether or not I am the smartest, most accomplished, happiest version of myself. The idea that another me might be better than this me seems to be the very definition of self-defeating. Given that I only get to live out one version of my existence, there’s something sad about the near certainty of moving blindly through a network of a less-than-perfect one.
I have a friend who works as a nice metaphor for this dilemma. All through middle school and high school, Mariel was the older, more self-assured, more complete version of who I could be. I studied her progress and decisions as though they were a prophecy I could fulfill, if only I chose correctly. Now, she’s a first year physics Ph.D. student here and we share a campus again. Something about being in the same place underlines just how much I’ve strayed from her trajectory. At this point, I’ve stopped looking for myself in her. Our dissimilarities are too complicated for me to retrace the many divergences.
But obviously, she’s a great person to talk to about the multiverse. Unlike me, she doesn’t feel she’s in some sort of “Game of Life” race against her other selves, but rather feels left out of their games. She doesn’t envy their experiences; she just wishes that she too could take part in them.
The multiverse is what fills the infinity of the universe with every possible iteration of space, time, matter and energy. Given this understanding of the universe, we’re not only cut off from the possibility of certain events, but also the possibility of the relationships between our various selves. All of these collective selves take up so much space, space in the universe that we never get to visit. Mariel was sad because the person and the place and the time were each contingent on the others, and because they could not be separated, they could never overlap.
So where do we go from here? The blinders that keep us from seeing these potential companions cannot be removed. We greedily enter into every moment, claiming all of it for that most present self. From this vantage point, moving through time seems like a selfish activity, one that prevents every other you in the wings from entering.
I’ve always felt that time is the resource I have the most and least control over. We have so many expressions to this effect — time is money, me time, borrowed time, race against time — phrases that either claim the possession of time or argue that this is an impossible feat. More often than I’d like, I crawl into bed wondering what I did with a day. Where it went, what marks it left, but mostly how those hours failed to leave any marks at all. But there are also good nights, ones when I’m in bed before 1 a.m., satisfied with the tally of words and pages and conversations and explorations on the day’s balance sheet.
Time isn’t really money, but a currency in and of itself. The things we purchase with it can’t be replaced by cold cash. It’s valuable, and so we’re protective of it. Not just in relation to the other selves, but in the way we allocate time toward friends, classes, creative endeavors, exercise and sleep.
Maybe because I’m a senior, it’s especially hard for me to decide what I want from the time I have to spend. Too often I commit the time equivalent of an impulse buy, coming home from the library with unwritten pages or the party with snippets of mindless conversations. I’m trying not to envy those other selves and their decisions and instead be happy that somehow, somewhere, another me is always entering into the right moment.
Caroline Sydney is a senior in Silliman College. Her column runs on alternate Tuesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .