Another version of me has dirt under her fingernails
If another me exists in another universe, I picture her clad in a red gingham dress or blue denim overalls. She toils on a farm surrounded by corn and cows. This is the life I might have lived, had I followed the advice of a career aptitude test from my high school days. My life’s work decided by the 17-year-old me, while I sat hunched in a high school auditorium coloring in ovals on a Scantron sheet.
The test, sponsored by a branch of the armed services, revealed I should go into agriculture. Growing up in town, pulling weeds in our family garden was the closest I came to life on a farm. I imagined the work would be the same, only on a much larger scale. Mechanical aptitude came in second place, suggesting the possibility of a career in helicopter repair. I am certain my doppelgänger can both plow a field and fix a broken tractor.
They taught neither farming nor tractor repair at the school I attended. Girls were shuffled into Home Economics and handed a spatula while boys were enrolled in carpentry courses and awarded a hammer. Young ladies learned to bake a cake, sew a skirt, and type a note — all the useful skills we needed in the 1970s. What would I be when I grew up? I wanted to be a doctor, an author, an actress, a missionary, a teacher, or a scientist. Not a farmer.
I fumbled along as a waitress, telemarketer, stay-at-home-mom, carpenter, bookkeeper, and accountant — as though I were working my way backward through the alphabet. The alternate-universe me took the advice from the aptitude test and ran with it. She moved to sunny California and joined a commune. Far from the capitalist demands of a 9-to-5 job, she rises with the sun and feeds the chickens. She bakes her bread, sews her clothes, and types poetry on her Royal typewriter.
This woman exists on a different plane from me, but the older I grow the closer I feel to her. As my husband and I look at houses we might buy and towns where we might retire, I judge each option on whether there might be a spot for a garden. The places earn bonus points if there’s room for a small shed where I can set up a typewriter. Multiverse me would approve, I’m certain. Like parallel lines in a drawing, we’ll meet at the vanishing point.
This story was published in response to Human Parts’ Weekend Writing Prompt, “Give us a snapshot, a moment, an experience from a life you could’ve had. What are you up to out there in the multiverse? What would Multiverse You think of the life you have right now?” To receive prompts like this one every weekend, subscribe to our newsletter by following Human Parts.