Relationships

What’s Your ‘Sliding Doors’ Moment?

Sliding Doors

Last week, I walked down a street I had almost lived on…

…with another person, in another time, and I wondered, “What if…?”

In the movie Sliding Doors, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Helen, a woman whose life goes in two wildly different directions based on whether she does or doesn’t catch a train. In the first scenario, she dodges onto the train and arrives home to discover her boyfriend in bed with another woman. In the second, she just misses catching him and he strings her along for weeks as her life continues on a downward spiral.

In the movie, Helen’s character sports two different hairstyles — a chic blonde crop that quickly became the hairstyle of the moment and a mousey brown ‘do that hangs limply around her increasingly sullen expressions. (The latter was actually a wig.)

More than twenty years after its release date, the movie (along with the fashion!) holds up, even if it is riddled with 90s-era instrumentals — ominous violins during the scary moments, and tinkling sounds like an enchanted pixie harp whenever something good is about to happen.

If the film remains a cultural touchstone, it has everything to do with the central question. “What if that one little thing had happened differently?” There will always be roads not taken, missed moments and unmade choices. There will always be selves we never get to encounter.

What if I’d never gone to that party or answered that email or taken that job? What if I’d moved to another city? What if I’d answered that interview question in a different way? It’s enough to make your mind explode.

Even so, imagining an alternate existence can be kind of fun, like an actor trying on characters. Maybe the grown-up me I pictured in my youth — an early rising, briefcase-toting corporate lawyer with a severe bobbed haircut — does exist, in another dimension. Maybe she had children, or lives in Oregon, or bought a home in the town where I grew up.

The more I’ve spoken to people about this, the more it seems like everyone has their own “sliding doors” stories.

“If I hadn’t had a crush on this guy, I wouldn’t have moved to New York,” reports Sally. “Nothing wound up happening with him, but that move changed my entire life!”

“Years ago, I was trying to get pregnant while working at a job I hated,” reports another friend. “It didn’t happen, and I wound up taking another job that ultimately launched my career. I’ll sometimes think, if I’d gotten pregnant right away, my life would have been completely different.”

“If I hadn’t shown up to a certain dinner party, I wouldn’t have met my husband,” says Maureen. “And if he hadn’t walked in late, I might not have noticed him. So many ifs.”

In my own life, I can point to myriad chance encounters — the job I applied for because I had a snow day, the random Google search that yielded an apartment, the bet that led to meeting my boyfriend (a story for another day). If you shift any of these variables by just a few degrees, the entire landscape changes.

But the question I keep coming back to is this: What wisdom does this alternate version of you have to offer? It can be easy to gaze down the road not taken and imagine it might have been smoother. But if you could meet the person who took that path, they would likely find so much to like about your life.

As a tarot card reader once told me, when I posed a question about my career, “The bus is definitely coming. The question is, will you get on it?” Is THIS the bus? Have I missed the bus? I’d wonder, at every proverbial turn. Now, I like to think that a bus is always coming, the doors constantly opening and closing before taking off in new directions. Life unfolds like a web, where different moments lead to different paths, all of them intersecting in ways we can’t always understand. Sometimes, the best we can do is wait for the next bus. Or train. Or job. Or whatever. And know that wherever it’s headed is going to be an adventure.

Have you had any Sliding Doors moments? Who are you in an alternate universe?

P.S. 12 women share the best career advice they’ve ever received and what advice would you give your younger self?

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo.)

  1. For years I’ve called this “alternate universe me”, which eventually lead to my best friend writing a poem that eventually lead to my Senior Project.

    I met my husband (almost 11 years ago) because I requested time off around the holidays to visit a terrible ex that lead to an amazing woman getting hired at my coffee shop. Because she moved to my coffee shop, my now husband became a customer and began renting a room from a regular. She introduced us and a month later we had our first kiss.
    9 years after our first kiss, we got married!

    Almost every good thing in my life I can trace back to a terrible thing. Almost every terrible thing in my life I can eventually trace to a good thing. I trust the Universe way more than I trust almost any other thing these days.

  2. Bek says...

    I was dating two lovely men, the first was adamant I needed to make a choice and it should be him, the second he wanted me to take my time get to know them both and make the choice that was right for me. The second got on well with my family, the first didn’t. I felt pressured to make the choice and chose the first man, even though I loved him I did think often about the other man. I ended up leaving after 6 years we had good times but ultimately were incompatible. I wonder if I’d stood my ground and got to know my own mind more would I have still been in a relationship, maybe with children. Instead of single and childless. I know you shouldn’t dwell but it does cross my mind often.

  3. renitent says...

    When I was 18 years old, my friend died in a car accident. The evening it happened we went for an drink with friends (non alcohol) . When we payed she asked me if I would like to join her, because she felt like going for a dance to a near disco for just an hour or so. I rejected, because we had school the next day. I went home and she drove to the disco.
    At home I sat in the kitchen with my mother and we chattet for hours. While we chattet, my father, a neurosurgeon, got a call from the hospital to come for an emergency. An hour later he came back home devastated. A beautiful girl, my age, had an accident which caused such severe brain injury, that the only thing he could do was to declare her for dead and talk to her family. He had not perceived, it was my friend, he was talking about.
    On the next day our teacher came into the class and said, that something really sad happened an Jasmin lost her life.
    Til today I think of this evening as a sliding door moment in my life.

  4. Back in college I organized to study abroad in Paris. A month before I was set to go, the course offerings changed and every single course that would have contributed towards my remaining gen ed requirements or major were removed. The ONLY place still accepting applications for a semester starting in just a few weeks was in London. I really didn’t want to go there as I wanted to learn a language but hadn’t registered to stay at my college for the next semester either, so off to London I went. I was one of the only Americans, so all my friends were British. I kept in close touch with them and visited every few years through my 20s – and one of the friends I met on my very first night of study abroad is now my husband. When I moved back to London to be with him, I accepted a job as a receptionist (the first job I was offered and just to pay the bills while I looked for something in my field) at an INGO that works in Global Women’s Health/International Development. I ended up LOVING it and got my MPH and promoted within the company to a mid-tier level, and now travel around the world to developing countries for my work. If I had gone to Paris, I’d never have met my husband, doubt I’d still be living in Europe, and wouldn’t have a career I’m passionate about that sends me around the world. The trip to London to study abroad was my first time out of the country and only my second time on a plane – and it changed my entire life forever!

  5. Emily says...

    11 years ago I had the decision to stay in a wonderful coveted community on the West Coast but was deep down very broken from a traumatic relationship and the breakup the resulted from it, swearing to myself that I would always remain single. My parents pushed me to move to a more urban area, to start fresh and try something new: new friends, new apartment, new area. I decided to make that move.

    A year later I met my now husband of 10 years (we just celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary in Italy). We worked through our trust issues, through the death of my mom, new jobs, new businesses, owning 2 different homes and other ups and downs of life and marriage. The various life changes related to marriage and sharing your life with someone has built a more empathic and “whole” person which I have become and continue to try to be.

    Looking back, if I hadn’t made the move that was encouraged by my parents over a decade ago i have no idea where I would be or what kind of person I would be. So very grateful for wise parents and these “sliding door” moments in life which ended up being 100% the right decision for me because ultimately it has made me a better person!

    • I had the option of staying back home and completing my undergrad at home but I chose to move abroad and sometimes I wonder what my life would be if I hadn’t made that decision. It changed me so much, but I still wonder what if.

  6. Julia says...

    My sliding door moment was my sophomore year in college. I had a wonderful, devoted, and caring boyfriend who wanted to get married right after we graduated. He was tall, athletic, kind, intellectual, and the sweetest man ever. Did I mention we had amazing chemistry?
    He also had 3 sisters who trained him very well in the ways of women!
    Well, the 20 year old (young, spoiled, and clueless) me decided to take a break from said boyfriend and “see other people”, as I wasn’t ready to settle down. My boyfriend agreed but wasn’t happy about it. In fact it made him very sad. Well, within weeks I met someone else in one of my classes.

    The new guy and I decided to go camping the last weekend of school, and I told my boyfriend about it. He came over to my dorm room and begged me not to go. He was hurt and crushed in a way that only a 20 year old boy can be hurt. He said nobody will ever love me more than him, and he asked me to go downstairs and tell the other guy to go home. Well, I felt torn inside but I took a deep breath and made a decision. I chose the new guy and we went away for the weekend. I told my boyfriend goodbye and I would call him later, then I grabbed my bag, left the dorm room, and got into the new guy’s car and went camping. We had a fun weekend and got to know each other, but in the back of my mind I felt terrible about my current love. That first night before we left for camping, I almost ran back upstairs and told my boyfriend that I loved him and didn’t want to go camping with this new guy, but I went against my instincts and left.

    Well, as things happen….my old boyfriend moved on, and I ended up with the new guy. Flash forward 25 years and the “new guy” and I have 3 beautiful children and just passed our 17 year anniversary. The sad part is that we are separated now and soon to be divorced. We were never really happy and never quite meshed in the way that either one of us had hoped. I have always longed for the first boyfriend. He’s married now too, and has a beautiful wife and lovely family. She is a lucky girl. I wonder what my life would have been if I had followed my instincts? I’ll never know. But I do know that I have 3 lovely children that are my life. That’s all that matters.

    I will always always wonder what would have happened had I gone with my instincts that night……to run (not walk!) back up the stairs to my dorm room, grab my boyfriend in a huge bear hug, and promise him that I would never ever let him go. True love is precious. If you find it, don’t throw it away. Hold onto it and cherish it, because it is a rare find.

    • Anonymous this time says...

      This is so crazy because i went through something very similar and continue to struggle with coming to terms with my decision 12 years later! It‘s weirdly reassuring to know i‘m not alone so: thanks.

  7. Jme says...

    I truly felt like my path was the right one. When I was 26 years old, I met my husband due to several unusual coincidences, we fell hard in love, we both left our ex’s to be together, then we moved across the country, got married and started/ran a successful business for years. No looking back!
    I’m now 45 years old. 19 years (anniversary was 10/15) later and after many wonderful memories of happiness and being “In-love”, our marriage has failed us. It is devastating and I wish there was a way to hit the reset button, but there has been too many heart breaking losses and hardships. We can’t find our way back, though we have tried.
    Now I find myself wondering how I missed that sliding door moment. How many times was there an opportunity to change the outcome? Maybe, I need to stop grieving for this marriage and the love lost? Maybe I need to fight harder? Or maybe this is my chance to get a cute new haircut and slide the door the opposite way? Decisions…
    Either way, thanks to all of these amazing stories I have to believe that something good or great will be waiting on one side or the other. 😊

  8. Megan Rowlinson says...

    I absolutely love reading all these comments about everyone’s “sliding doors” moments. It is so fascinating and strange to think about in my own life.

    In college, we had organized a baseball game for my coworkers and I. My one good friend/co-worker was traveling home and her flight got delayed due to major storms, so she could no longer attend. One of my other co-workers brought his roommate with her ticket. We have now been together for ten years and married for three. It is strange to think that if her flight was not delayed and she attended the baseball game, that maybe I would have never met my husband. Wilmington, DE

  9. Tshego B says...

    I almost missed the bus to visit my friend a few years ago. Later that night after my arrival, she introduced me to a guy I began seeing a couple of months later. 2 years later, after suffering through some of the worst times of my life…I finally knew he was 100% a narcissist. The cheating, lies, manipulation and abuse took me another 2years to move on from. I just wonder what if I had missed that bus?

  10. LC says...

    When I was 22, I was engaged to my high school sweetheart but I wasn’t feeling ready to marry him. I went on a business trip and met an older guy (he was 30). We had an instant infatuation and I returned and immediately broke off my engagement. I dated the older guy long distance for a year, and we talked about moving in together at some point. I got tired of waiting for him to be ready though, so I ended things. I eventually found my way back to my ex fiancé and we had both matured and grown. We are now happily married with 2 kids. Now, the older guy is extremely rich (he is a gifted entrepreneur), and I’ll randomly wonder what my life would be like if I stayed with him, but my husband is the love of my life and I can’t imagine my life without him.

  11. Kate says...

    I left a 4 year relationship, we were in the middle of house hunting. Due to myriad reasons, I walked out and never looked back.

    I marvel almost daily at how good my life is, I’m so grateful for this freedom and the friends I’ve found. I was afraid of being lonely but it’s so much better than I ever could have imagined.

    Leap and the net will appear!

    After university I accepted a job in Kuwait and was so excited, but simultaneously got an unexpected opportunity in the local government. I decided to take the job in my city and found a career I’m passionate about. But I’m sure the version of me in Kuwait would be quite happy!

  12. The first time we were trying to get pregnant I had a miscarriage. The second time our baby was born with a progressive, genetic disease of the brain, but neither my husband nor I had known we had such a gene because it’s so rare. It’s so weird to think what our lives would be like if we’d had a typical kid that first time out, which was the more likely scenario, a 75% chance. But my daughter has not only changed the way I see the world, but she’s completely transformed my career. I’m an anthropologist and a pastor and I now do work researching and supporting people with disabilities. It’s such a fulfilling career and I love being a mother to a daughter with disabilities.

  13. M says...

    One night, my senior spring in college, I went out to a karaoke bar and met a guy. We started dating and fell in love. He had accepted a job abroad, but he rescinded it so we could be together. After a few months, we decided to move across the country to San Francisco. We didn’t have jobs at the time; we moved for the city (the hilly streets, the perpetual fall weather, the cable cars!).

    A few years after moving to SF, we broke up. While we’re no longer together, without him I never would have moved to my beautiful home, my city by the bay. I’ve lived here for six years and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

  14. MK says...

    I think I’ve had 3:

    1) I randomly ran into an old friend from high school when I was back in my hometown, and I went out for a walk because I was bummed that I had just been dumped and needed fresh air and perspective; she mentioned a party she was going to that night, and asked if I wanted to along, I decided to, and met my husband that night (we’ve been together for 16 years now).

    2) I usually got to class early in college, but the coffee cart I usually got coffee from was closed so I went to one further away, meaning there were less selection of seats when I came to class. I sat down in my journalism college class and we had to interview the person next to us, during the interview I discovered we had the same birthday, and through the interview questions realized we had a lot in common and now, 10 years later, she’s one of my best friends.

    3) In junior high I had to go talk to a teach about an assignment after class and missed my bus home, the only other person to miss the bus was a fellow 7th grader girl that I didn’t really know, but lived in the same general direction, so we walked home together and chatted the whole way, and again, discovered how alike we were, and she became my best friend and my maid of honor in my wedding to the guy I randomly met at the party in scenario 1. :)

  15. When I couldn’t choose between two colleges, I flipped a coin and let that make my decision for me. And everything in my life would have been different it had landed the other way! I wouldn’t have met my husband or my best friend. I wouldn’t have moved my acting career to Philadelphia one year after graduating, which eventually led to me leaving acting and pursuing writing, which led to the book deal I got earlier this year. I wouldn’t have had my son, or live in the city I live in now, or have met the wonderful people that helped me make a home here. I’m so very, very grateful to that little penny.

  16. EL says...

    Last night my best friend begged me to come to a party for one of the roommates of this guy she’s been seeing. I was fully in pajamas and had just finished my extensive nightly skincare routine, but I very reluctantly agreed, inspired/guilted into it by this post! I ended up having a great time and at the end of the night one of the guy’s roommates pulled my friend aside and told her he thought I was really cute – judging by the other comments here I guess I just met my future husband?? lol

    • Christine says...

      I think I speak for us all when I say…Please keep us updated!

  17. Y says...

    Mine happened a few months ago. In the spring my boyfriend and I moved to the Northeast in anticipation of the next stage of our life together. Then over the summer he ended our ten year relationship. I was blindsided, but I was determined to move on. I worked my way through the heartbreak and embraced growth and decided I’d move back to the Midwest to be near my family.

    A month after my breakup I went for a hike in Maine. I’d always daydreamed of through-hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT), and had long wanted to summit Mt. Katahdin, its northernmost point. Knowing I’d be leaving the Northeast soon I figured now was the time, but I knew I’d have to do it over the weekend because I couldn’t take time off work. The Katahdin campgrounds and parking spots are usually booked every weekend for months out, but there just happened to a single lean-to site available. I grabbed it.

    On Saturday I spent the night in my lean-to site at the campground. The next morning I was the first person from my campground up the mountain. The hike was difficult, often more like rock climbing than walking, and very steep. When I stood at the top–cold, exhausted, hungry, happy–I had tears in my eyes.

    The man who summited right after me was an AT through-hiker, and we ended up having lunch together. I shared my food and my thermos of coffee, and he told me his amazing story. What advice would he give, I asked, to someone starting out on their own long journey? “Hike your own hike,” he said. “If you do it your way, you’re going to succeed.”

    In the days that followed I thought about his words and realized that my breakup provided me with a golden opportunity to through-hike the AT. Anxiety about taking leave from work and being away from my relationship for six months had always made the AT seem like an impossible fantasy. But now my relationship was over, and I found myself in the position of preparing to leave my job and my home and start life over on my own. Winter makes a through-hike of the AT almost impossible, so I began to think about staying put in New England. I wouldn’t have to repay the generous moving reimbursement my company had given me if stayed a full year, and I also wouldn’t have to pay a penalty to break my lease early. It suddenly made sense to stay where I was, hike the AT next year, and then move home. It also lengthened the period of transition between my old life and my new life. It gave me space to breathe.

    I never imagined how life would pave the way for me to hike the AT. That it would sweep away my impediments and excuses and provide me with a tailor-made opportunity to follow that dim dream. That it would send me a messenger to tell me I could do it. On the AT you are known by a trail name instead of your given name. The man I met? His trail name was Paradise.

    Before Paradise I was all set to move to the Midwest. But here I am still in the Northeast. I’m doing great. I’m downsizing my life, slowly getting stronger, and getting my equipment and plans together for the AT. In the spring I’m going to put everything in storage, get on a plane to Georgia, and then I’m going to walk north for two-thousand-plus miles. I’m going to hike my own hike, my own personal paradise.

    • Em says...

      Love this story so much! How brave and inspiring. It’s funny how things can come together unexpectedly when they’ve fallen apart. Good luck for the trail; I’m sure it’ll be life-changing.

    • This is such an amazing story. I was struck by Paradise’s advise of “Hike your own hike.” As I read your comment, you’ve provided me with my own Sliding Doors moment as I’m at a stage in my life where I’m on the fence as to which direction to take some personal projects I need to execute. Thank you.

    • Briel K. says...

      I love this! I hope you have an amazing hike!

  18. Jess says...

    Ahh, these moments. Such sweet and tender moments, such hard heart break too. It reminds me to have compassion because everyone is trying their best with what they have in the moment they are in. We just never know what invisible weights people carry with them through each day.

  19. Amanda says...

    Kind of a long story but…

    About 7 years ago I was living in SF and was miserable. I had made the decision to move back to my home state, MN. I put in my 2 week notice at work. On the weekend before I was suppose to leave I was laying in bed reading, ignoring the fact that one of my co-workers/friends was having a party (at this point I just wanted to be done and gone!). However…she convinced me to come over because it was “like a final hoo-rah!”. I went to her flat and ended-up speaking for hours on end with one of my other co-workers who I had honestly not given much thought to (other than he was older and cute and probably out my league). I went home with him that night because, hell…I was leaving, what did it matter? Well…it turns out that I stayed the next night, the night after that and the night after that. I knew within 24 hours I was going to marry him, but didn’t know what to do because I had accepted a new job in MN and they were coming to move me the following weekend. We had agreed to try out long distance.
    But fait took another turn when a few days after our long weekend, the company I had given notice to was acquired (by a really great tech company) and they offered me a better job /better pay if I would stay.

    So the day that the company from MN was coming to move me from SF I called them and told them not to come bc I had decided to stay in SF. I had no where to live because I had given up my own flat and so I moved in with my now husband 2 weeks after we started dating.

    A series of sliding moments and insane risks that still shock me to this day:) My husband and I have now been married 5 years and we’re having our third child…we moved back to MN together 2 years ago.

    • Jo says...

      Wow!! Love this story and how it all worked out for you <3

    • J says...

      goosebumps!

    • Sharon says...

      I love this story <3 Thanks for sharing!!

  20. Kate says...

    I had a chance meeting with a boy right after college, moved across the state to be with him, and stuck with him for eight years (even though it was not a good relationship). I questioned the relationship the whole time, but kept thinking that because we’d met in a kind of sliding doors moment it was meant to be, and “maybe this is just how lengthy relationships are.”

    Finally we broke up, I moved across the country “just to see what would happen,” got a job that allowed me to get my master’s for free, met an amazing guy I’ve been with for 3 years, and just generally couldn’t be happier.

    It’s funny–even though the 8 years in that first relationship were pretty crappy, I wouldn’t be where I am now without it. That time was kind of a cocoon where I was forced to find myself and develop my independence and strength, which enabled me to make the choices that put me where I am now. So, I guess that sliding doors moment over a decade ago did lead me to this point. And I’ve learned it’s never too late to make a change, and if it’s terrifying, that may just be a good thing.

  21. I was supposed to go on a solo trip around Thailand in my 20s, but a day or two before my departure, I realised that my passport (which had been on the dining room table), had vanished. My girlfriends and I searched high and low for it (even going through the bin bags!), to no avail. I didn’t take that flight, went to a house party that evening instead, and promptly met my future husband:)

  22. Y says...

    Currently, I’m a college student who is a BIG fan of Cup of Jo and the community. It’s posts like these where I find empathy and words of wisdom from other strong strong womxn. Ugh, when I listen to THAT song or THAT building I get reminded of certain moments in which I reminisce briefly all the intense emotions I felt. I undoubtedly thought that guy was THE one. I thought I would major in _. I thought I would meet these certain types of people. I feel every emotion SO much… so much so that it can feel like I wasted my energy/time in retrospect when certain things didn’t go as expected. HOWEVER, what I’m realizing is that it’s quite exhausting to go from high to low to high to low… sometimes it’s OK to just sail in the middle. Neither high nor low but taking in slowly and passionately the tremours and flutters in life. I had a sliding door moment about loving myself and my life rather than pondering all the IFS with that one guy or one decision. It’s actually really freeing to get out of the mindset that the good stuff is about to come. The GOOD STUFF is NOW. THE GOOD STUFF IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW! You are alive. All those “mishaps” and “embarrassing-time-wasting-moments” are most definitely what makes life interesting. BY interesting I mean that we can’t change the past but the wisdom and shift in perspectives we gain are what make us like wine that just ages better with time. Ugh ugh ugh life is so complex. Love is so complex and random. For now, I’m going to stop thinking about that one guy that makes me feel so so awesome but also so so shitty. There’s that one TedX talk about how we make life so hard when it’s all pretty simple (take this with a grain of salt). To some relative extent, life/love is complex but it can also be chill. Just take it all in. Life is short, life is long enough. Life is WHAT??? Life is weird. Look UP at the trees, the sky, the ones you love. You control the story you tell yourself. Ugh, life is quite wonderfully mysterious and a pain in the ass at times. Not high, not low.

    • H.R says...

      “sometimes it’s OK to just sail in the middle. Neither high nor low but taking in slowly and passionately the tremors and flutters in life.”

      I love this.. :)

  23. Heather says...

    A friend told me she wanted to introduce me to someone and an upcoming charity event was the perfect opportunity. But it was also the night of my younger brother’s birthday and he had just moved to town and hardly knew anyone. I was torn but kept getting this feeling I needed to be there so eventually I begged his forgiveness and went to the event. Twelve years and two kids later I have no regrets. Though many a birthday card to my brother includes a “P.S. Thanks for not being mad at our mom so we could be born, Uncle Scotty!” 😆

  24. S says...

    My sister’s sliding door moment led to my sliding door moment. Freshman year of college my sister met an amazing Scottish fellow. They were the best of friends and he adored her, but struggled with commitment and decision making. They dated on and off for 8 years and finally got engaged. A week before they were to get married he came to our home and called off the wedding. He got cold feet and allowed his commitment issues and fears of marriage end the engagement. He returned to Scotland and they remained in contact over the course of two years. I even went with her to Scotland to visit him as “just friends”. My sister knew she had to move on for her own sanity and began dating her now husband. Three days before she was to marry her husband, the Scottish ex called and begged and pleaded for her not to get married, but to marry him instead. Needless to say, she chose her husband because he knew what he wanted and had no fear going after it…the ex was only giving promises that in the end had no guarantees. She chose what was safe and what she could count on. Seventeen years later with three beautiful daughters, her life is beautiful, her marriage difficult, but she is the strongest woman I know and when life gives her lemons, she make the best damn lemonade!
    My moment happened twelve years into my marriage (FYI, my sister got married 5 months after me). My husband and I were struggling with infertility for nearly our whole marriage and were finally at a point of acceptance that perhaps our life was not meant to have children, as heartbreaking as that was for me to come to terms with. We both came from fairly large families and loved and adored our nieces and nephews and felt like that would be enough for us. My husband was entering his last year of professional school when we got a call from my sister telling me her husband’s sister was pregnant and due to her mental health, she would not be able to care for the baby and he would be going into the foster care system in another state…would we be interested in getting involved? My husband was never into the idea of adoption, let alone fostering. His fears were that there would be no guarantees that we’d be able to keep the child as reunification is what the foster care system typically works towards. He didn’t want to see me get heart broken by yet another disappointment as that would be too painful for him. I told him that I truly felt like this child was meant to be ours. Unfortunately due to state to state complications we could not bring the baby to where we were living at the time. He was placed with another foster family and we were on a crazy roller coaster ride of home studies, ICPC, foster certification, etc. Six months into our process, DHS told us the foster family was also interested in adopting baby and that it looked like our paper work would perhaps not be done in time once termination occurs. However, if we resided in the same state the process would be much quicker. We had to make a huge decision, either let this one go and chalk it up to “if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be”, or move. It just so happened our lease was up in two weeks, and we decided that I’d move to the state where our baby lived and my husband would stay behind to finish school. Once this decision was made, everything fell into place. My job let me work remotely, I had accrued enough air miles for my husband to come home almost every other weekend (for nearly a year!), my parents were retired and agreed to live with me and help out (again for almost a year, they really are saints!), and what was suppose to take at least a month to transition baby into our new home, ended up taking one week! After that difficult year, my husband finished school and we never moved back. We now have three little boys, all biological siblings from my brother-in-law’s sister. My sister and I always play the what if game…If she ended up marrying her ex, I would never have had my babies. That thought alone pains my heart. There are no regrets on my sister’s part, even though from time to time she wonders how her life would be and if her marriage would have been easier or happier if she had married her ex, we shall never know. She does take comfort in knowing she had a part in fulfilling my greatest dreams and for that I am forever grateful!

    • fleigh says...

      S, your sliding doors story is absolutely amazing!!

  25. A says...

    I’ve been with another person for the longest time and I always knew something’s missing, I just can’t put my finger on it. I’ve been following your blog for about 10 years now and knew your husband works for NYT. One time, there was a link to NYT Tiny Love Stories and I chanced upon this photo with a story of a woman and a long time lover who can’t marry because well, it isn’t legal where they’re from. The lover married a guy instead. It broke my heart. This woman has an instagram account on private. My sliding door moment is reaching out to someone for the very first time in my life, no common friends at all, not knowing really what’s gonna happen

    It may sound stupid to leave a comfortable relationship, but I know deep down, for whatever reason, she is The One. I love her, I love US and the life we’re planning and building together. Such a cliché, but she completes me.

    • Also A says...

      I feel like we’re the alternate universe people of each other.

      I’ve been with the same person for years but recently developed a crush on an online person. If I were single, I most definitely would have reached out. Instead, I’m sticking with the comfortable relationship and admiring her from afar…daydreaming about the “what ifs?”

  26. Loesie says...

    Big fan of the film for different reasons. I call it a corner-movie aka ‘hoekjesfilm’ in Dutch, my native language.
    Anyways, I usually can’t stand it when something like that happens in a movie; when someone walks around a corner and then this other person doesn’t see them, while they would have if they would’ve been just a second earlier. Gives me the heebeejeebies every single time!But still, I need to keep watching it to know how it continues…
    I do love the movie Family Man as well. Same concept in a way.
    So interesting how so many of us responders talk about how they would not have met their partner if they wouldn’t have done so and so.
    I guess for many of us that really is a crucial turning point in our lives!

    • Em says...

      I am late to the party here but I think about this often. When I was 16, I was in a relationship with my high school sweetheart but things never really felt quite perfect. I just chalked it up to being a teen. I got a job at a local fast food place and met this guy who would turn out to be a great friend. One day he was leaving for a week and he sent me a long, very beautiful message about how he was in love with me. I didn’t know what to do about it because I had been feeling the same way but had so much guilt over my boyfriend. Ultimately, I chose my boyfriend and we got pregnant and married soon after. Ten years later, we had been divorced twice and gotten remarried but it still wasn’t right. Thanks to his sister though, I had found a way to a great career and met the love of my life there. I always wonder what would’ve happened had I just not been scared and taken that first leap of faith. My life would’ve been so different. I wouldn’t have my now fiancé and my daughter and another one on the way.

  27. Liza says...

    In 2006, I was interviewing for jobs in Chapel Hill, NC, where I went to college and 30 miles from where I grew up, and in NYC. I didn’t really like New York but was trying to get away from two different exes, knowing I’d end up marrying one of them if I stayed and not wanting to.

    One day, after committing to a job in Brooklyn that I didn’t plan to actually take, I went to see an apartment that I didn’t have any intention of moving into. The woman renting the room said her roommate was in there, moving her things out, but that I was welcome to go on in.

    In the room was a dreadlocked Irish woman who chatted amiably with me for a minute before saying, “I can’t place it, but I know we’ve met before.” We ran through a couple of options before she said, “Were you in a Rome in the winter of 2002?” I had been! My best friend and I had stayed in a Roman hostel for a week and had become fast friends with her and her best friend. We’d hung out together all week (I still have photos of the four of us together) but hadn’t kept in touch. She’d been living in Ireland when we met but had subsequently moved to Brooklyn, into the very room I was considering renting! It seemed like such a sign — If things like that could happen in New York, it must be a pretty magical place. Thirteen years later, I’ve since left NYC for Philly but happened to pick up a husband along the way, and am now typing this holding our baby.

    Chloe, wherever you are, thank you for inspiring me to take that big leap!!

    • h says...

      love this story!

  28. Britta says...

    The moral of the story, so to speak, of Sliding Doors, is that even though both paths took different turns, she still ends up with the man who we presume is the love of her life. I love thinking about that…like, if I had met my husband at 22 instead of 32, would we still have ended up together? Was it always meant to be and this just happened to be the random path that got us there?

  29. Natalie says...

    My sliding doors moment, and subsequently my life trajectory, all hinged upon my trivial, atypical decision to go get coffee in the middle of the afternoon on a hum drum work day. Not something I did often, I went out for coffee around 3pm to get some fresh air on a grey January afternoon. I was waiting at a street corner to cross (let’s be honest, probably checking my texts from a boring tinder guys), and I ended up meeting my now husband right there in that spot. He just… said hi! We started chatting, and we are now coming up on our 4 year anniversary of that day.

    As I type this, he lights up my phone screen… a text from “Husband”. Call it God, call it “the universe”, call it what you will (I’ll call it God) – I truly believe in the deepest depths of my being that he was plopped right there on that street corner that day just for me. Oh, and did I mention he’d recently moved to NYC from North Africa? Quite a journey he had to take to make himself present in my life on that short walk back from my coffee break. I now have an incredibly enriched life with a beautiful family of in-laws and an entirely different world view than I had before that day. <3

  30. Marisa says...

    I’m sure this isn’t novel, but my choice of college was a defining moment so much larger than I think I realized at the time. I was between two good schools, in two different parts of the country. I remember being so torn and not knowing how to decide. One morning I woke up and just…picked one. I moved to Chicago, where I Met all of my friends, eventually met my husband, and now raise our kids. What would life be like if chose the other one?!?

  31. Ann says...

    I always think of it of luck or fate, but I had my sliding doors moment a few years ago. I was in the Peace Corps and deeply unhappy. I kept telling myself to stick it out, that I would be happier if I saw my service all the way through and that I was doing this to become the best version of myself. And I did stick it out for months on end until finally I gave in and moved back home with my parents where I quickly was offered a job by my old supervisor and met my current loving, adorable partner. That job led me to another and now I am on the road to a career and Masters degree that I am thrilled about and I live in the cutest apartment with the man I love. I have never been happier and none of it would have happened if I decided to stick it out in the Peace Corps in the hopes that it would make me a better me.

  32. lomagirl says...

    So many moments- and I learned to say “yes” in life which led to an interesting life.
    but now that I am approaching 50, I am having to come to grips with the idea that I can’t go back to take some of those roads I didn’t choose at the time.

    • M says...

      I’m approaching 50 too, Lomagirl. We have so many roads ahead, and more wisdom and experience to bring with us when we do!

  33. A says...

    I love this movie and this concept!
    I met my husband in a desert survival course when I was a teenager. There were two classes that happened concurrently and we ended up being in the same course. Over the next month, I fell in love with this boy that I would one day marry. After the course, we went our separate ways. 8 years later, I had a fling with the instructor of the other course. I didn’t have a cell phone at the time, so I missed his call when he called my parents home and I instead reunited with my now-husband and we started dating. I later found the old contact list from the course, where I was originally NOT in my cute husband’s class but with the cute instructor. It makes me wonder what would have happened, had I not been switched last minute.

  34. Amy Bitar says...

    My most significant Sliding Doors moment literally did involve missing the subway, when my metrocard jammed. I was stuck on the platform and cursing to myself, when seconds later, everything went dark. It was the NYC Blackout of 2003.

  35. Erin M. says...

    I think about this non-stop. 10 years ago I met my now husband in Memphis, TN. My parents had gotten divorced that year so I moved back to my hometown and gotten a job at a bar on CRAIGSLIST! My best friend and I interviewed together. I got the job and she didn’t. He was a regular at the bar (w/his own wild sliding door story on how he ended up there) and we became somewhat acquaintances. I quit the bar 6 months later, moved to a different city and never saw or spoke to him again.

    Seven years later, he saw me on Tinder in Dallas, TX and swiped right. I couldn’t place him at first but he said he knew me immediately. We were already Facebook friends so we reconnected there. He ended up living 5 EXITS AWAY! After a whirlwind romance – both of us never thought we’d find the one – we got married in September of this year :)

    It comforts me to think if my parents hadn’t divorced, I would have never met with him. We never had a romantic relationship in the past and I joke now about how much time I had wasted (met him at 21 and married him by 29 lol). He always assures me it wouldn’t have been the same because the timing wasn’t right. So crazy how one thing seemed to be the end of my life (my parents divorce) actually led me to the best thing that’s ever happened to me!

    • HL says...

      What bar in Memphis?!

  36. In 2013, my 27 year marriage ended in divorce. My life took a dramatic turn for the better. Sometimes I look back at that other person who was me. I want to tell myself, “You have no idea how amazing you are! Someday you will walk into a whole new world of happiness. You will marry your soul mate! You will wake up to an entirely different life. You will find out who you are! Dare to believe.” The thing is, I didn’t believe in soul mates. Like, I would have promised you, 100%, that soul mates didn’t exist. That’s like me telling you that I married Santa Claus. Santa is real! Would you believe me?

    • Beth says...

      I love this! Good on you.

    • Suzieq says...

      So, so happy for you. Sometimes the worst thing in your life turns out to be the best.

  37. Mims says...

    So many SDMs, but the most recent: This February my husband asked me if I would ever consider moving from California to Washington State, as he was invited to interview for a job there. I said, yes! And now, I have been a somewhat bewildered resident of the Evergreen State since June. Readers, he got the job. Had I said No, he never would have bothered and we would still be in my comfortable rut back home. Where it is supposed to be 92 degrees and no power due to high winds and PGE shutdown.
    But instead it is a crisp 45 degrees, beautiful fall color and gorgeous fall color wherever you turn.

    It doesn’t quite feel like home yet, but slowly making new friends and making a place for myself. And more importantly, it forced me to clear clutter and Marie Kondo my life before paying to move it 900 miles!

    • Elena says...

      Welcome to Washington! It’s my home state and I’m so glad you’re liking it — it’s a magical place.

  38. A says...

    Many years ago, I went out for a quick drink with some colleagues after work. My colleague, D, and I were the last to leave and as we were paying, I jokingly asked him if he had a big date that evening (it happened to be Valentine’s Day). He looked at me and said, “Please, don’t ask me that. This is so difficult for me.” I was confused and said, “What’s so difficult?” And then he told me he had been in love with me for two years but didn’t know what to do because I had a boyfriend. At first I thought he was joking (I’d had no idea he felt this way) and then I thought he was crazy and then I thought I was crazy because I did have a boyfriend but I could not stop thinking about D and what he’d said. And then I decided, without knowing him very well but knowing what kind of person he is (a very, very good one!), that I would leave my boyfriend and be with him. We’ve been together now for six years and, with all respect to my ex, it properly freaks me out to think about what my life would be like if I had decided differently or if D hadn’t said anything.

    • M says...

      Thank you for sharing, A. I’m in the midst of something similar and I find comfort in your story.

    • Yulia says...

      A–after you’d made your decision what did you say to D?

  39. Heather says...

    I regret meeting and marrying my husband. We’ve been together over a decade and I’m just not happy. But, we have a little boy now that we worked very, very hard to adopt, so here I’ll stay. I just wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t married so young because I felt like I had to.

    • amber says...

      Heather- 12 years in and 2 kids, my husband has walked out on me without notice. While I love my kids, I just think…had I not returned that email….my life what would it be like? He just took my youth, my reproductive years, my money, my house, and my kids ( now I have to share custody) He literally has ruined my life. I will move forward, but it all came down to returning an email….and my life changed in an instant.

    • Heather says...

      Amber, that is so hard. I feel for you. Hugs, friend.

  40. Julie says...

    I don’t let myself go through what ifs often… but I do wonder sometime who I would have been if my younger years were different. I spent the ages of roughly 13 to 18 in a very abusive situation with a much older man. I was sexually abused and emotionally and it was ongoing bc I didnt know how to get out (he was mentally unstable and threated suicide often ). It lasted so long at such a growing age ,which I think made relationships and emotional connection really hard for a long time into adulthood. I learned soo many things in those years, none of which I should need to know, but I did. I am much stronger, empathetic, but probably still too stoic. I have an amazing husband and life, but I do sometimes wonder who I would be without those years in my life. Would I be the me I am at all? I imagine I’d have the same interests and hobbies, maybe the same go with the flow attitude which takes me lots of places….. but maybe I wouldn’t. And then that makes me wonder how I could think of that sliding door as a negative when I love my life now. It’s a weird thing, but I love reading these comments and thinking about it.

    • NN says...

      I can relate to this, the complexity of it all. I hate the saying “everything happens for a reason” because it seems like an excuse for evil and suffering (well, and people often say it at the worst times, like after a death of a loved one). I guess I don’t think there is an ultimate future that has been predestined, in light of which all bad things make sense. But I do think that we are the sum total of our experiences. And without feeling grateful for some of the chaos and pain of my childhood, I do…appreciate (is that the word?) the person I am now. (Does that make sense? Probably not.)

      You seem amazing.

  41. It was the first week of my sophomore year of college. In an attempt to be responsible, I had convinced myself that I couldn’t just major in English–I should also enroll in the teaching certificate program. I went to the first several meetings of a class entitled “Adolescent Health and Development,” only to find it should have been called “Racist Stories from the Time the Instructor Taught on an Indian Reservation.” A first in my life, I decided to quit. I dropped the class, and on a whim, attended an info session on studying abroad instead. The next year, in lieu of continuing with the teaching certificate, I flew to the UK for a year studying at Oxford. I learned tons about poetry and caught the travel bug. Oh, and met my husband. We’re about to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary and welcome a daughter into our family. We hope she also has the travel bug, because we live and work overseas. I would have made a good teacher. But what of the rest?

    • SuzieQ says...

      When I was 26, I flew into an airport after months of travel. Two men surprised me at the arrival gate—each carrying flowers and signs confessing their love. I married one of them.

  42. My “sliding doors” moment was meeting my husband. I was set to take a job in San Francisco, and two months before I was set to leave I ran into him at a Starbucks with my friend. We feel instantly for each other and ended up doing long distance for a year. I moved back to TX for him and now we’ve been together almost 10 years and have two kids. I always wonder “what if I hadn’t gone with my friend?” (I used to be very anti-marriage) would I still be single traveling the world? My husband has changed my life so radically I don’t know if my past self would even recognize me let alone my alternate one.

  43. Christie says...

    Freshman year of college right before winter break… I was walking down the hall to a friends room in the dorm and heard a familiar refrain of a little known song that happened to be a favorite of mine, coming from an open door. Being a freshman and very open, I decided to knock on open door and introduce myself. Well, it sounds like something romantic is coming next but it’s not. I started hanging out with this other group of people and through them shortly met my first love of sorts… that was actually an abusive relationship. That ended in a restraining order and years of nightmares. It really changed me from the wide eyed bushy tailed do-gooder naive kid I was to setting me on the path to where I am now. I can say I’m more worldly and well rounded for having gone through some things… and I am now happily married to a man who worships me, with two daughters under 5 who are my pride and joys. I always wonder though what would happen if that door wasn’t open, or it wasn’t THAT song playing, that derailed the path I was on. I’m sure I would have matured and become less naive via other routes… or maybe not!

  44. Eliza says...

    I’ve thought of a few what-ifs before, but my main one is my college choice. If I had never gone to the college I chose (which was my second choice), I would have never met the friend that introduced me to my now husband 8 years later. So glad I kept that friendship for so long!

    • jo says...

      My moment is similar to this! Summer after freshman year I almost transferred to what had ALWAYS been my dream school, but at the very last minute decided to stay put. 7 years later I ended up marrying the man who was my house manager that fateful summer and now we have two little boys that make my heart explode every day.

  45. Jess says...

    Years ago in college I was feeling fed up with my roommates and abruptly got up and went for a run. On my usual route I decided to take a new turn and ran into the boy who I fell in love with, taught me to ski, convinced me to move to a little ski town that became my whole world. It’s where I met all my closest friends, became a real adult, met my husband. I wonder what the other me’s life is like, did she live any of my other dreams? I hope she turned out as happy as I did.

  46. Karyn says...

    I love this post and comments. I have watched Sliding Doors approximately 1,000 times — I saw it in the local indie theatre on a summer break during college, then bought a VHS tape as soon as they had it for sale at Blockbuster (remember the bins of used tapes you could buy when they didn’t need as many copies any more?). Back at college, I watched it in heavy rotation on our cute little VCR-embedded-in-a-13-inch-TV machine, along with Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (my roommate was obsessed with Audrey Hepburn) and my other favorites, When Harry Met Sally and Reality Bites, and continued to do so for years afterwards. I still have that tape, even though I haven’t owned a VCR in at least 10 years! Anyway, I have watched that movie A LOT, and one theme the film seems to suggest is that there are some things in life — big things, like meeting a soulmate, getting pregnant, having an accident that lands you in the hospital, losing a pregnancy — that will happen to you * no matter what * the other sliding door circumstances of your life happen to be. Which is of course more rom-com, predestined romantic nonsense :), but I do like trying to imagine what the constant, no-matter-what moments in my life have been and will be.

  47. Sara says...

    My friend and I were supposed to meet my sister and her friend at a dessert cafe. We got dropped off at the wrong location so they had to drive to us. My sister was furious. On her way out she bumped into a man who seemed out of sorts. We found out the next day that that man shot three people in that cafe. Gives me chills every time I think about it!

    • Julie says...

      Wow, what a crazy what if story. Thank goodness for that mistake!

  48. Adriana says...

    One of my biggest regrets of my life is never having lived in New York City. I moved to DC instead, because I knew people who lived there. But on the flip side, I would have never met my husband and have this beautiful life with our children. So, NYC will be distant flutter in my heart, a maybe for the future me.

    • Laura says...

      SAME

    • Emma says...

      I am from NYC and have since moved to DC. FWIW, NYC sounds wayyyyy better on paper than it is in reality. I prefer DC :)

  49. Hillary J says...

    I was offered two similar jobs, and taking one over the other placed me at a desk outside the office of someone in a different department who I’d never met before. Being quite introverted in my social life, but forced to be more outgoing for the purposes of doing my job, I found myself conversing with this fellow rather often due to proximity. To make a long story short, six years after that initial meeting finds us happily married with one child and one on the way.
    I often wonder if I would have ever met him if I took the other job. Or if I ever would’ve been brave enough to say hello if I didn’t overhear many of his friendly one-sided telephone conversations from across the hall. There’s a saying that goes, “some things are too strange and strong to be coincidences”, and for this blossoming of friendship that turned into love I can’t help but find that to be true!

  50. anon says...

    It’s interesting to me that this what if / sliding door question has a somewhat positive, nostalgic, fun to think about outlook, because my what if / sliding door ponder is not that at all. My biggest what if question has always been:

    What if I had taken the aspirin even though my OBGYN told me I didn’t have to. It could have likely resulted in a successful pregnancy, and very likely meant that I wouldn’t have adopted and my child would be neurotypical and not on the autism spectrum (we didn’t indicate for special needs, we left it open). That would also mean that my parenting life would be vastly different. I love my child, no doubt, but there are specific challenges that have tested me to the core, and I know that had we a child whose needs weren’t these, our life would be different in so many aspects.

    • Anon says...

      Yes. This. “That would also mean that my parenting life would be vastly different. I love my child, no doubt, but there are specific challenges that have tested me to the core, and I know that had we a child whose needs weren’t these, our life would be different in so many aspects.”
      But we didn’t adopt, and it’s our 2nd child (the 1st is neurotypical so we never imagined anything else for our 2nd), so there’s no sliding doors moment, just occasional moments of wondering about the other version of our life. Don’t beat yourself up about the asprin.

    • anon says...

      Thank you for hearing me, Anon.
      Hugs.

  51. Julie says...

    My best friend’s cousin (who is also a good friend of mine) was supposed to go to Penn State. But he got extremely drunk during 80’s day his senior year of high school and threw up on the vice principal. Because of that his parents insisted he attend a college closer to home that was less of a party school-here he became good friends with my future husband, who I met at a party at his house.

    So thank you P., for being irresponsible at 18, my life is better for it.

  52. Carrie says...

    While planning for my first solo international backpacking trip, I was booking a hostel ahead of time. I was halfway through entering my credit card information on the website to book when I abruptly changed my mind and booked a different place. I have no memory of what made me change my mind, but I met my husband at the hostel I ended up staying at. 12 years and 3 babies later, we still marvel at how many small things could have happened differently and prevented us from meeting.

    Also, this is such a fun dinner party question!

  53. K says...

    My boyfriend at the time said he was moving back to Minneapolis from Madison, and wasn’t interested in continuing our relationship. I was 21, distraught, and desparate to do anything to make it work between us. I made the decision to withdraw from UW Madison mid year and enroll at the U of M so we could try to make things work, even when he had made it clear it was over. I found an apartment and moved to Minneapolis in the dead of winter. I made the decision to hit the reset button on my life. I didn’t try to rekindle my relationship with my ex, but threw myself into a new world in a big city. I got a fun job at a fancy catering company, finished my art degree, and joined the ballroom dance team at U of M. It was there I met the love of my life, my now husband. Although it took us a year to reconnect after dancing, I never forgot the way I felt in his arms. We just clicked. We were friends, and then lovers. When he and I finished grad school in Minneapolis, we embarked on our careers in the Southwest and were married two years later. Years after we had met, he told me that the moment he had first laid eyes on me in that gymnasium at dance practice, he knew we would be married. We’ve been in ABQ nearly 10 years and have 3 beautiful children. He and I have had more adventures than I ever imagined, and I can’t wait for the adventures to come as a family of five.

  54. L says...

    I think about this quite a bit, but more in the way that life has nudged me in the direction I was supposed to go.

    In my 20s, I had been dating my college boyfriend for years and we were on a path toward marriage. I could never shake the feeling that the relationship wasn’t meant to be, but continued along regardless. As we were mapping out our future plans, I took a job in the Middle East while he went back to grad school. Well, that was right before the Arab Spring, political unrest broke out, and I was evacuated from the country. That was the jolt I needed to reexamine my priorities and swiftly broke up with my boyfriend. Meanwhile, I needed a new job ASAP and took the next one that fell in my lap – this time in Asia. There I met my now-husband who also ended up there by chance. A colleague called him four hours before the application deadline and convinced him to apply for the job. He makes me happy every day, and I am so grateful for the small and large decisions that brought us together.

    Fast forward a few years, and we have now been married nearly five years. After trying to get pregnant, I had three miscarriages within the last 18 months. Although the miscarriages devastated us, I oddly enough feel a bit grateful for them at times. This spring we had a fire in our home and have been dealing with the aftermath of smoke and fire damage, eventually moving out while our home was repaired. I can’t help but think how unbearable the last few months would have been if we had a newborn at the time.

    Sometimes I think about my ghost ships, and wonder what would have happened if I had married the old boyfriend or never had my miscarriages. But I do believe that life nudged me exactly where I needed to be.

    • L, I am so sorry to hear about your miscarriages and the fire in your home. We had a fire a year and a few months ago (it started two floors below us and the firefighters stopped it right before it reached our apartment), and we could not return after escaping in the middle of the night (waking up when there was no fire detector going off is a sliding door moment for me, and being there to wake up my boyfriend). The aftermath of dealing with the cleaning, moving, repurchasing, unethical cleaners, etc. was awful, so I totally get your relief at not having a child during that time. I too have wondered at how I could have handled those months (over a year for us, due to the unethical cleaner problem) if I had also had a child to care for. I hope the rest of your process goes smoothly and that all went well with your insurance, etc.

  55. Mara says...

    It didn’t take me long to think of my Sliding Doors moment. One night in November I was in a mad frenzy cooking a feast for my boyfriend (now husband)’s birthday, it was our first one together and I’d offered to cook a culture’s cuisine that I’d never in my wildest dreams attempted. Needless to say that I was stressed and in way over my head. All burners were operating, some pots were overflowing, some items were burning. Then I saw a call come through from my grandmother, my best friend in the entire world. I debated a second – do I take the call, or do I let it go to voicemail and call back tomorrow evening? I lowered the heat and took the call and we had the most wonderful 10-minute catch-up conversation. She said she loved me and to keep up the good work, and then I resumed my frenzy and only ruined some of the dishes. Less than 24 hours later, my dad called to tell me that my grandmother had a heart attack at home and died soon thereafter in the hospital. I think all the time, had I not taken that call and heard her sweet voice one last time…

    • FGB says...

      I’m so glad you took that phone call! What a sweet story.

    • agnes says...

      You made such a great choice…

    • Vero says...

      Wow, this one hits really hard. So glad you answered the phone <3

    • Neela says...

      Oh my gosh, tears. So glad you had that goodbye <3

  56. Sarah says...

    If I had been paying attention, I wouldn’t have stepped off that sidewalk and rolled my ankle 13 years ago, and my now-husband wouldn’t have come to my rescue. It’s the best injury I’ve ever had.

  57. I’ve been a full-time stay home for the last decade, had my firstborn two quarters before I graduated from college. During the last ten years, I went on to get a masters degree and put it to good use for only a year. Then work schedule changed and would take me away from the kids more than I’d like, so I stopped. It’s been almost five years since I stopped, and sometimes I can’t help but go down the slippery rope, thinking – what would have happened if I had stuck with the job? Maybe then I wouldn’t have this blank long gap on my resume, scared to someday get back into the working world? I struggle with mild depression, and I tend to beat myself up about being just a stay home mom, no work experience, and hence my value as a person. But truth is I don’t think having a job would fix my insecurities about my self-worth. I try very hard nowadays to not think too much about the what ifs and the alternate life I might have had, and focus on the present and count my blessings.

    • dee says...

      I think for those that struggle with depression, this all takes on a different meaning. I go to therapy to try to get myself out of my “sliding door life” head, because it just makes me more depressed. I’m sorry you’re sad, I wish I could give you a hug!

    • Kathryn says...

      My career has also been diverted by kids, and l went into the downtown area of where I lived yesterday and saw all the people in their business wear, having what I assumed to be important conversations, and felt a pang of sadness. But reading your post reminded me of the best person I ever worked with, a woman, who took 10 year off to be a stay-at-home mom. When an opportunity came her way she worked hard to get herself up to speed in a new field, and became the go to person for figuring things. But her true value was all of the momness she brought to the company. In a semi-dysfunctional office, she offered guidance and positivity to all of those around her. Everyone wanted to work with her and do good work for her because of how she treated people, and her treatment of people came from what worked as a mom.

      I work part-time for an extremely functional company now. The woman who runs it is a mom who missed out on a lot of her kids childhoods because she working in an industry that did not value mom’s. By allowing space for people and family the company is filled with people who are excited and want to work together and do great things. I guess what I am trying to say is that your part of your future professional value is because you are a mom. Don’t apologize for any gap, it is making you a badass.

  58. Em says...

    I once had the choice between my ex-boyfriend, who’d broken my heart three months earlier, and the boy I just met. I chose the ex, in a once-in-a-life effort to be sensible and settle for what I knew. We had a lovely summer, got engaged, had a baby, and broke up.

    I love my child so much. She’s the bees knees and the cat’s pyjamas. But, oh. I think about that boy all the time. And I wonder who I might have been if I’d said yes.

    • H says...

      This one hits home. Thanks for sharing. <3

  59. Owl says...

    Fascinating topic, post, and comments! Though I must say, I am not one to go down the “sliding door” thought process too often. Why not? Because I think in life you always make the best decision that you can at the moment that you have to make it. You make your decision based on who you are at that time and what you know and how you feel at that time. Things might look different in the future, but that’s because you will have grown and changed, and consequently so will your perceptive. You can’t go back, and regrets are mostly just a waste of time (though yes – certainly reflect on experiences and learn your lessons). In the end, you made the choices you did as best you could. Now continue to live your life and embrace new opportunities, don’t waste too much time on “What if”.

    • Rose says...

      Yes, this exactly. I feel like I could have written this. This is how I view life as well–I make the choices I made at the time, the best choices I could. I rarely think “what if” in regards to my life.

  60. Ashley says...

    How timely is this post!! I am currently struggling to make a life-changing decision: to take a lovely job in the PNW (where I’ve always wanted to live!) or to stay in Austin & continue to grow the things I’ve FINALLY managed to plant. Each has it’s own pros & cons — each means giving up something for the other. I have felt on a primal level how absolutely momentous this is (could be) for me….and how I want both lives. Both ships, if you please.

    • beks says...

      Should you find yourself in the upper, upper left, I’ll take you out for coffee :)

    • Tanya O says...

      Take the leap-PNW is awesome!

    • Yulia says...

      Imagine yourself thriving in both places. Absolutely thriving, growing everything you plant. No one is guaranteed to thrive, but assuming the best case scenario for Austin and assuming the best case scenario for the PNW… where do you want to end up trying to thrive for the rest of your life?

      Please let us know what you choose!! <3 <3 <3

    • H says...

      This was my same thought process 3 years ago as I moved from New York to Portland. I miss NY and my friends who are like family there, but I have never felt more at peace in a place I call home than I do in Portland/the PNW. You’ll do what’s right for you, and no one says you can’t move back to a place ;)

    • Z says...

      Come up to PNW for a visit! It looks like there’s a few of us COJ readers that would love to meet up!

  61. B says...

    During college, I had been invited on a camping trip with a group of classmates- but I had concert tickets for the same weekend. The night of the concert rolled around and my friend had misplaced the tickets (physical paper tickets- this story wouldn’t exist in 2019!) and we couldn’t go. But there was just enough time to pack up the car with camping gear and make it to the campground by sunset, so that’s what we did! I sat down around the campfire, hit it off with the guy next to me, we kissed & have been together every day since.

    When I think about how my life could have ended up if we hadn’t lost the concert tickets, I just picture a slightly different, equally happy, unknowable version of me waving at me from her own timeline.

  62. Kathleen Edwards says...

    I think about this sometimes too! I’ve never really believed in fate- even though I love my husband dearly, I don’t think people are “destined” to be together. We met in college, so if either one of us had decided to go to another school, we would have never met. I would have a different life, but not necessarily a worse one. Just different.

  63. TC says...

    I wrote my name inside a book that I eventually sold to a used bookstore. My (eventual) husband, who lived in a completely different state at the time but was visiting friends, bought the book from that bookstore. I have a unique name and so he easily found me on MySpace. He was just curious about the person who had owned the book before him, as I had written a lot of notes throughout it. That was almost 13 years ago and now we have a kid and a dog and a house and a life together. There are so many places along the road that things could’ve gone differently, but I don’t like to indulge in “What if” thinking too much. I’m grateful for exactly where I am right now.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that’s incredible, TC!

    • agnes says...

      That’s crazy! What book was it? and what notes were on the book so that this man really wanted to know this woman? Somebody, please write a book about it! I love your story.

    • Mo says...

      I moved to Santa Monica to go to community college after high school (I don’t know why I was so drawn to it as it was only an hour away from my hometown, but I felt it was where I HAD to be) and two weeks after moving, my now husband was searching MySpace for the author Charles Bukowski and my profile popped up because I lived in the same zip code. We’re 13 years deep and two kids later…thanks to MySpace and books as well!

    • Ashley says...

      First off — an incredible story & my bookish, romantic soul is just SWOONING.

      Secondly, I LOVE your philosophy of just being grateful for what you have NOW.

    • This reminds me of the movie “Serendipity”!!

    • NN says...

      I love this so much. I can understand why he wanted to know the margins-writer—you seem pretty special.

    • TC says...

      @ Agnes – Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys. I read it for school and at the time wrote a lot in all my books. My husband apparently appreciated that I had circled the word “jerkily” and written in the margin that I hate that word, lol.

    • Patty says...

      So beautiful. Reminds me a bit of the film “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” — a lovely movie.

    • Natasha says...

      What was the book???

  64. Jane says...

    One year ago I moved to a brand new city (where I knew no one) for a job opportunity. In the year that I’ve lived here I’ve made friends and gained a jump up in my career, but I constantly think about moving back home to be with my family. I feel like I made the train, but might want to get off before the final destination. Do I stick it out and hope it feels more like home over time? Or go back to where my roots are? I’m young enough that I feel privileged to have a choice, but old enough to know that whatever choice I end up making will completely alter the course of the rest of my life.

    • SweetPickle says...

      Jane,
      I’m not sure whether you should follow the advice of strangers on the internet, but I’ll chime in anyway. :) I live in the same town (ok, on the same street) as my parents and I LOVE it. My kids have a close relationship with their grandparents that would be impossible if we were someplace else. The deep roots we have here are. the. best.

    • Neela says...

      Have to say, Jane, this resonated with me. I left my home in Australia to study in Europe- 15 years later, I’m still here, happily married with two gorgeous kids, but my family is on the other side of the world. As a student and when I was young and struggling to be free and do my thing, I never realised how difficult it would be to separate my parents from the grandchildren after every visit.

    • Em says...

      Jane- I just went through a very similar situation. I moved across the country by myself, across the county again with my boyfriend, and then back to my home state all within three years. I don’t have any advice for you, but am sending good thoughts your way. It’s such a hard decision to make, but as my therapist once tole me- a decision is just a decision, there is no right or wrong.
      Good luck to you!

    • NatDU says...

      Don’t underestimate the importance of family (if they are special to you, and it seems that they are). I’m in the same boat as Neela – followed my husband from Australia to Canada. Despite being happily married, it was hard enough living far away from my family before having a kid, and with one it gets unbearable, and as he gets old enough to understand separation it’s only going to get worse. Not to mention not having physical help around from grandparents!! Go home! It will be a different version of life from where you are, but it will be with important people!

  65. Hannah says...

    This is something that my husband and I talk about all the time, the many obstacles and small choices and big moments and tiny moments that ended up with us being together.
    Had my first husband not left, had my friend not forced me to download bumble and try dating as a single mother, had my partner not battled (and conquered) addiction, had his former girlfriend felt she could handle his recovery, had I not put aside all the seemingly many reasons we would “not work”, had we both given into our fears of being extremely hurt again… I would not have this great love. My daughter would not have this amazing bonus dad.
    Life is good.

  66. anna says...

    A lot of people seem like they’re in the Gwyneth-with-the-chic-bob version of the story… but what about the other side? I know many of us (me included) think about things that could have been but weren’t. I tried to follow up with a guy I thought I was meant to be with, but by the time I caught up to him he had a girlfriend. Then, years later, he came back looking for me. But by then, i had married. I’ll wonder about him forever

    • emily r says...

      I’m so glad you said this. It seems hard to believe that EVERYONE is so happy and content with all that life has thrown them.

      I think about the ones that got away, or the jobs I didn’t take.

      I don’t have an amazing, but then I met my husband/spouse/dream job alternate.

    • Bridget says...

      Yes! me too- I didn’t take a scholarship for a masters degree in a foreign country and instead stayed in the US and had my second kid (out of 4). I do think how different and more exotic my life would have been had I just took my son and accepted the offer and went to school abroad, something I had always wanted to do. I did do a masters degree abroad later- with all 4 kids and it was hard AF- great too, just a very different life.

    • Have you read the modern love essay about ‘prying Cupid journalist’? Modern love on Amazon video just made it into a episode. It is a true story end amazing how when circumstances about losing ticket changed everything

    • Lindsay says...

      Cognitive psychologists call this the “choice supportive bias.” Once we make a decision, we retroactively ascribe positive features to the choice we made (and devalue the road not taken). Basically, we tell ourselves, “I chose this option, therefore it must have been the better option.” Yes, there’s also an element of wanting to share the lovely story — and not the sad one — in a space like this, and many people have wonderful, life changing moments to share. But I think this trick our mind plays on us (to spare us too much rumination and regret) is the main reason for the trend you’re observing, Anna. It’s painful when our minds can’t distort our memories to spare us, but my guess is this comes with some other pretty awesome and clear-eyed qualities.

    • Annette says...

      You’re so right. I am living in mousy brown haired Gwyneth’s life wondering about the blonde version somewhere in another universe.

  67. Jenny says...

    My husband and I realised after we met that we were going to the same bars in the same time period, walking our dogs on the same routes but never met. 9 years ago I moved in next door to his dad and dad volunteered him to help work on my drive. We got together about 6 months later.

  68. Johanna Poggi says...

    Wow, i read like, a lot of the comments (student from germany over here, should be learning right now, hi) and first of all, thank you for the peeks inside your lifes, your souls. second, i noticed that most of the comments i read were about finding love in unexpected situations, finden purpose in life or simply and amazingly finding yourself. I do not want to express nothing bad ever happens or one akes regrettable decisions, everyone does, i think, but most of you decided to write about the good stuff rather than to mourn missed chances. you know, nostalgia can be a liar, like an instagram filter, an nostalgia to something that never happened maype even more. So, thanks for all your moving comments full of love, hope and faith in life, destiny, fortuna, god or whatsoever. You made a boring rainy day a lot sunnier! wish you all the best!

  69. Martha L. says...

    The part you wrote about buses reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Wendy Cope. She’s British which explains the “Bloody” in the title.

    Bloody Men

    Bloody men are like bloody buses –
    You wait for about a year
    And as soon as one approaches your stop
    Two or three others appear.
    You look at them flashing their indicators,
    Offering you a ride.
    You’re trying to read the destination,
    You haven’t much time to decide.
    If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.
    Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze
    While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by
    And the minutes, the hours, the days.

    Wendy Cope

    • Danielle says...

      Thank you for reminding me of this poem! I came across it years ago when I was having one of those time periods where all the buses arrive at once. Thankfully I hopped on the right one!

    • Dee says...

      Ah how lovely to see a Wendy Cope poem here- we live in the same town and I always peek at her from behind the shelves in the local book shop.

    • Martha L. says...

      I did my junior year at University College London and I was lucky enough to hear her read it in person. She’s a wonderful poet!

  70. NN says...

    This question is really interesting. I typed out a long answer about the role of genetics (look at the Twin Study), etc., but then I realized something about myself and deleted it all. I tend to believe that my choices are relatively beyond my control. To my mind, even the fact that I’m a perfectionist aka control freak isn’t a choice (I know! it’s ironic!) as much as a result of a chaotic childhood plus genetic predisposition. So for me, whatever choice you make was the choice you *had* to make–for a multiplicity of reasons both conscious and unconscious. Was quitting grad school and moving to a big city to party *all the time* a “sliding door”? You could say it was: arguably my trajectory changed entirely. I quit grad school because my mind and heart and body was done. I couldn’t have stayed. And even if I had stayed, the same demons would have popped out there, too. But maybe this is just me. Maybe if I believed in radical free will, in an opportunity to author your life into any direction at any point (and I’m just going to say that feel like a privileged pov), maybe my life *would* be different. Maybe it still can be?

    • Gilly says...

      You should check out Free Will by Sam Harris! If you haven’t already. He writes about how it is indisputable that we are all the sum parts of nature and nurture–we are the product of our genes plus our combined experiences, none of which we have control over.

    • NN says...

      Oh thank you, Gilly! I will. ❤️

    • second the Free Will recommendation by Sam Harris. Free Will is an illusion that we all operate under. Studies show that your brain knows what you will choose before your consciousness is aware of it. This is an astounding central fact of our lives yet most people are not even aware of it or they dismiss it because they prefer the illusion of control.

    • Julie says...

      I always recommend East of Eden to my friends that feel this way too. I always tend to agree with your thought pattern, but the story shines a (fictional) light on another way to think about free will. I loved the way it made me think about this.

  71. Claire Walker says...

    Mine are hard to think about because it seems just miraculous and insane that I have the husband and the life I do. When I consider all the normal, every-day circumstances working against our chance meeting (that took place 12 years ago) it all feels so fragile in a way that is scary.
    We met at New Year’s Eve party in a city where I did not live. The group was close-knit and he arrived as a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend (something that is pretty against type for my introvert guy). I didn’t pay much attention at first but we ended kissing at midnight.
    The even harder-to-think about part of our very chance meeting is that I went home with him (no judgement, COJ ladies!) and when my friends came to pick me up from his place the next day, I left the house without giving him any way to get in touch with me. But before we drove away, I realized I’d forgotten something in the house, ran back inside and decided to write my number on the only piece of paper I could find – a dry-cleaning hanger tag.
    He called. We got engaged 2 New Year’s Eves later and now we’ve been married for 10 years & have two kiddos. What if I hadn’t run back into the house?? I’d like to think maybe he would have tried to get my number…or if not my life would have found alternatives paths to wonder and joy, but I’ll tell you my life is so much better than I could have imagined because he’s by my side.

  72. Stella says...

    Me meeting my husband was full of these moments and I think a lot about how one tiny slip and my whole life would be changed. I decided to go with a friend to a coffee shop to pop-in on another friend that just started a job there. Future husband is working too. My friend gives my number to him (I’m too shy) – what if she hadn’t? He actually called me (we were strangers and 17 and 18). My mom actually let me go out on a date with a stranger (what?!?). We had holidays and then he went on a snowboarding trip right after our first date and he actually called when he got back. We’ve now been together almost 20 years, married almost 13, and 2 kids. All for celebrating a friend’s new job.

  73. Jenny S. says...

    Has anyone read Dark Matter by Blake Crouch? The whole premise is alternate realities and this comment thread reminds me of it so much. Highly highly recommend the book.

    • Julie says...

      That book is fantastic!

    • Laura says...

      Yes!! Such a great book and I keep thinking of it in this thread as well!

  74. Katie H says...

    Sometimes, Caroline, it’s like you’re in my head. I had these exact thoughts over the weekend while visiting New York. I declined a job opportunity over 10 years ago. Where would I be if I had taken it? Would this be a street I’d live on? Would this be my subway stop? Could this have been my favorite brunch place? It was certainly a Sliding Doors moment…

  75. Rachel says...

    When I was 24, I turned down my absolute dream job because there was no way to support myself in NYC on it. I stayed at my soul sucking corporate gig instead, and just 1 month later a cute, older blue eyed guy joined the team. 10 years later, we have two beautiful babies together and I’ve since changed careers with his support. At the time, I wondered constantly over whether I should have just tried to make it work. What would have happened then? Was there another beautiful life at the end of that road? Maybe. But, I’m forever thankful that I’m on the one I chose.

  76. Sam says...

    My first Halloween post college my friends and I planned to go out bar hopping. Halloween was a Sunday, so I assumed we were going out on Saturday night (we were all working our first jobs and had to work on Monday). Saturday I got all dressed up in my costume and headed out to the metro. After texting my friends I found out that they thought we were going out on Sunday. I was literally all dressed up with nowhere to go. I asked another friend is she had plans and ended up meeting up with her group. I ended up meeting my husband that night–he was a friend of a friend and I probably never would have crossed paths with him if my plans hadn’t fallen through. 9 years and 2 kids later I’m glad I didn’t call it a night and head back home!

    • Erin says...

      I love your story!

  77. J says...

    I met my husband through Craigslist Missed Connections! We smiled at each other through a café window, and that was that…until I decided to check Craigslist a week later and he had posted something looking for me. What if I hadn’t gone to that café/heard about Missed Connections/decided to check/etc.?! Love all of these responses; makes me believe in fate. <3

    • Megan Martin says...

      Wow! What an incredible story!

    • becky says...

      Wow I didnt know that existed! I would love to hear more stories from people who met that way!!

    • Mo says...

      Amazing!!

    • Christie says...

      Not my story- but my coworker met his wife similarly. She was sitting in a cafe by herself and smiling. She wore a T-shirt with some French phrase on it. He was standing in line and was intrigued by her. He went back to work and a had a slow afternoon and decided to write a missed connection. Was he in the habit of writing these? I’m not sure. The title was the phrase on her T-shirt. He wrote that he wondered what she was smiling about to herself. Well she didn’t see the post, but her friend saw the post and recognized the T-shirt phrase. She forwarded to the T-shirt owner… and the missed connection was made! Oh, and she was smiling because the night before was her birthday and she had a wonderful time with her friends and was basking in that afterglow.

  78. Kate the Great says...

    Sometimes, I wonder what I would be if I never had religion in my life. Religion sets such a large amount of moral rules to my life. In this life, I appreciate it and embrace it, but what if I never knew it?

    Specifically, I wonder whether I would enjoy being a whore. Or a concubine. Or a stripper. There has rarely been anything wrong with my libido or my sex life, and I can be somewhat of an exhibitionist.

    Is my soul such that I would crave that set of moral rules? I’m not about to stop attending church and leave my husband and children to find out, but when the talk of alternate dimensions comes around, that’s what I wonder.

    • E says...

      When you use the term ‘whore,’ are you referring to sex workers (prostitutes) or women who sleep with many partners? Either way, that’s not the best term to use. I hope you’ll think about using better terminology in the future.

    • Berni says...

      hahahahaha same! A therapist/birth chart reader, once told me that it was a shame i was so religious since i was meant to be with lots of men, be more promiscuous, etc!

    • Owl says...

      Hello??? Being atheist does not mean that one lacks morals!!!! I am an atheist, yet I am the first person to help others, donate money, and return a wallet full of hundreds of dollars (true story actually, and I did that when I was only 16 years old without my loving, atheist mom having to tell me). And although I love sex with my hubby, I have never been promiscuous.

      By the way, there are religious prostitutes out there.

      I have a theory that sometimes people who feel very oppressed by their religion fantasize (and sometimes even act on) really inappropriate things because it is a reaction to the “forbidden fruit” concept.

    • Owl says...

      Ps: Just to be clear, I had found the wallet at work! Lol! There was a phone number in it that I called so that the owner who had lost it could come and pick it up!

    • Gilly says...

      I think it’s really important not to confuse morality with religion. I work at a nonprofit as an immigration attorney, i stretch my limited income to cover my clients’ expenses, and use my free time to provide them transportation. I take care of the environment, give back to my community, care for my parents and family members, and have as much responsible, protected sex as I like, but never when doing so would hurt someone else. Religion doesn’t ring a bell with me, but I follow a set of moral rules that have always seemed obvious to me, like helping people who are struggling and giving more than you get. I don’t actually understand the concept of needing a religion to tell me to do the right thing. You probably would follow the same moral code if you hadn’t heard of religion! Don’t you think?

    • Yulia says...

      My read on this is: Kate is saying her religion dictates her specific morals about expressing her sexuality, which she might otherwise express differently if she didn’t feel compelled to follow the rules of her religion. I don’t think she’s saying everyone with different morals has promiscuous sex, just that it’s taboo for her because of her religion. She actually wondered if she would crave “that set” of moral rules if she lived an alternate life where she wasn’t religious. Or would she–like you or me or her over there–crave another “set”?

      Aren’t morals personal? Aren’t they absolutely to be confused or equated with the rules of your religion, or the philosophy you choose to embrace, or the beliefs of your family, or the norms and taboos your society embraces? You choose your morals from the menu that life offers you. That’s what we all do.

      (I didn’t hear her say she thought atheists were immoral, unkind, or that they would keep a found wallet or refuse to help those in need. I also didn’t hear her identify her religion. For all we know, Kate and her family worship aliens who force them to be monogamous and are actually against the giving back of found wallets or the protecting of the environment. The only thing we know about Kate is that her religion tells her non-monogamous sex is immoral and she believes. It worries me to see well-meaning women leap to defend their morality as if Kate was throwing stones at them. What I see is a religious woman asking a specific question about her specific life: “What if I had a different life? Would I have different morals?”

  79. Summer says...

    Wow, I have so many of these! My most important “sliding doors” moment is when I decided to accept that I was gay and stop making myself try to date men.

    I had been going on very awkward dates with this guy I met on a dating app. Because I had been so conditioned to think that being straight was the default, I kept thinking “oh, this will feel more natural soon.” He invited me to come over one night and my heart just cried out because of how lost I felt. I knew that when I thought about being with a woman, I felt relief. I told the very nice guy “no” and decided only date women. In that moment, I felt like I watched a life of “what ifs” slide away from me.

    A few weeks later, I met a woman who simultaneously makes my heart at peace and my body feel like its on fire. When I think about the life that I let slip away, all I feel is gratitude for choosing a hard, but true life. In that parallel world, a guy could propose to me – now, I’ll be proposing to the girl I love in just a few weeks.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, summer, your note made me teary! so beautiful. i’m so happy for you and your lucky partner.

  80. AR says...

    Me and a friend decided to quit our jobs in London and booked a one way ticket to India. We decided we would travel as long as our money lasted… About 3 months into the trip, we were in Sri Lanka and got caught in a thunderstorm so we ran into the closest cafe to get out of the rain. The only available seats were next to a man reading his book. I asked if we could join him and we ended up chatting for hours. He had got off his bus at the wrong stop and wasn’t supposed to be in that town so it was a chance meeting on all parts. 3 years later me and that man are married with a baby boy! I often think what would have happened if I had stayed in my boring job.

    • Lorraine says...

      Wow, incredible story! Love it.

  81. Jessica says...

    This one has really got me thinking! The biggest life changing sliding-door moment would be the summer between my Junior and Senior year in college. I had broken up with my boyfriend that spring. We had been together for almost 3 years by that point and I ended up reconnecting with my first love from high school which was wonderful with all the feels. Throughout the summer we kept it casual, no labels but exclusive. I had invited him to my sister’s wedding in September but he already had another wedding to attend. The wedding was at my parent’s house so he came over the night before and we danced on the dance floor under beautiful lights. It was a very tender moment and he said, “Promise me whether you’re in it, or at it…you’ll be at my wedding.” I responded yes and everything felt so perfect and magical. But I didn’t keep that promise. Something had been nagging at me.

    When I had moved back to school for my final year of college a few weeks before that night, I felt empty. It was the first year my ex and I weren’t together while I moved into my dorm or apartment. Something felt so off and for the first time, I truly missed him.

    It was never a direct decision I made, but after that special moment on the dance floor I started talking less to my old high school boyfriend and got back in touch with my ex. We’ve now been married for 16 years and have 3 boys together. I’ve wondered why after that sweet night on an empty dance floor I went running in the opposite direction, but I guess it was just my sliding door moment and the heart always knows.

  82. Diana says...

    Man, I love these comments! I think about this all of the time (regret will make you do that). My moment was in 2007. I had just moved back from living abroad and was celebrating Thanksgiving with one of my best friends from college. He and I were walking that fine line of love – was it platonic or something more? We had talked about it, never acted on it and it just hung there between us. It was just this thick blanket of possibility. Anyway, that Thanksgiving we took a drive and ended up on a lookout by the ocean. We just sat there in the car. Neither one of us making a move. The moment passed and we drove home. There were other opportunities after that with him, but I was young, dumb and still wounded from childhood trauma that left me unable to give and receive love. But I should have said something. Maybe he would have broken my heart, maybe I would have broken his. Maybe we would have just stayed friends, who knows? But because I didn’t say what was in my heart I will never know and that’s torture. I wonder how different my life could be with him….

    I eventually met someone, I shut him out for no other reason than fear and we haven’t spoken in almost 10 years. I’m married with two kids, so is he. Difference cities, different worlds. I hope he’s happy. I know I am not as happy as I should or could be but so it goes.

    Moral of the story – speak your truth! No matter how hard. Temporary heartbreak is better than a lifetime of regret.

    • BR says...

      I so get this, Diana.

    • L says...

      I get this as well. We’re at a tough point in our marriage and I know we’ll get through it, but what if? I do remain friends with him and with his wife. I have to believe that the issue(s) that kept me from ever saying anything to him in the first place would have remained and likely grown in importance would anything have ever happened, but I still wonder. I do know that my location would likely be completely different had we ended up together and I like where I am now, so I take comfort in that.

    • Molly says...

      Agreed – I love these comments so much and your comment especially resonated with me, Diana. I am in a very similar life scenario except my best friend told me he loved me in one night on aim in 2007. He was brave enough to speak his truth and about the connection we had. Due to childhood trauma I fled and shut down. (I literally ran away from my computer crying when I read the words on the screen – how sad for him and dramatic of me.) I was terrified of the what-ifs… I was 19 and had never had a boyfriend, we lived 12 hours apart, I wanted to experience college to its fullest, I couldn’t fathom hurting his heart or allowing mine to be vulnerable. I was scared. We haven’t spoken since he called me during Christmas break 2007, asking to take me out to dinner. I said no because a) I was scared shitless, and b) I knew he was going to tell me he loved me in person and didn’t want to lead him on or hurt him because I wasn’t on the same page. All those fears and what-ifs led me to lose him.

      What if I had been mature and brave enough to accept the blessing of my best friend loving me? What if I had been mature enough to realize I loved him back? As life would have it, I met my husband a few weeks later and we have been together on and off ever since. I do love him and it was an immediate attraction. He is everything I have always wanted on paper- yet I can never shake the feeling of what would have happened had I went down the other path. If I am honest, I think I jumped into my current relationship because I regretted not taking the leap of faith prior.

      Recently, my sliding door moment has been like a thick fog in my brain and heart. I wonder what would have happened had I taken the leap and said yes to dinner and told my best friend all the feelings I was grappling with. What would have happened had I let myself be loved by someone who I trusted completely? A part of me feels like I did him a favor by not going. I also feel ungrateful. I have someone I love. I ask myself whether I am self-sabotaging my happiness by not shutting out those what if feelings. My what if isn’t on social media and I wonder what he is up to. Is he married? Is he happy? And what would have happened had I been a little less afraid? It sure is torture when I let myself go down that path. Life man. I also cannot believe I just typed this out into a comment section. COJ, you guys are magic.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for sharing this, Molly. your words are beautiful and honest, and i can understand why you’d feel torn about your paths. sending you love. xoxo

  83. Tracy says...

    Yes, the (next) bus is always coming! It reminds me of this beautiful poem:

    there are stars you
    haven’t seen
    and loves you haven’t loved
    there’s light you haven’t felt
    and sunrises yet to dawn
    there are dreams
    you haven’t dreamt
    and days you haven’t lived
    and nights you won’t forget
    and flowers yet to grow
    and there is more to you
    that you have yet to
    know
    -g.c.

    • EL says...

      I love this!!

    • Sarah Petit says...

      beautiful poem! thanks for sharing!

    • joana says...

      this made me cry… i so want to believe it. thank you.

  84. Diane Lancaster says...

    At age 40 an involved relationship(property owned together, a business and romantic partnership)ended after I found out he was cheating on me. After this, through necessity and pride I became very focussed on rebuilding my business without him. One night a friend, who hosted happy hours around town, invited me to yet another that I had always turned down in deference to work. This night I thought what the heck and left my stuff at the office and headed downtown for what i thought would be an hour..but there was this guy. We both knew immediately…youre my person. Bought the house 6 months later, got married after a year and half (a death in the family lead to us needing to postpone the wedding since I could barely function in my grief) and just celebrated our 12th year wedding anniversary. We both acknolwldege regularly how lucky we are that we both decided to do this thing on that particulary night.

  85. Deb says...

    Knocking it out of the park in terms of topics for people to comment on lately, CoJ!

  86. Sara Berman says...

    I met my husband on Craigslist–as a roommate! The ad was questionable but I’m so glad I pursued the room and fell in love.
    After we got together we were both invited to 4th of July BBQs and decided to go to the one thrown by my friends. When we arrived we realized we had been invited to the same party by different people! We like to think we would have met at that BBQ if the Craigslist ad had turned out differently.

    • Sara says...

      LOL love this!
      When I was 23 I wanted to study abroad and was convinced I will move to Denmark. I had a university spot and a dorm room in Copenhagen, but then I got this sudden urge to move to Berlin instead, “even though I will dislike the city”. It was a weird urge but I followed it, got accepted to a university there and send whole bunch of emails for a flat share. My now long term partner was the only person who wrote me back, we were texting and emailing before I even moved to Germany and has lived together ever since. I ended up disliking the city :) no regrets

  87. Steph says...

    I find myself thinking this way all the time. Probably my favorite instance of this: I got cut from the freshman cheerleading squad, but my Mom insisted that I do a sport during my freshman year of high school…so I tried rowing. I ended up being pretty darn good at it, and it changed my life. It also got me a scholarship to an amazing university. I chuckle every time I think back at the time when I was a wreck about not being able to be a cheerleader. Fate is a funny thing.

  88. Kira says...

    What if my husband and I didn’t have a third kid? What would that look like? I don’t know, but so glad we opened that door!

  89. Sara Gies says...

    The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us
    “I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” the inimitable Cheryl Strayed

    I think of this every time I find myself feeling regret over this fear based decision, or that one. I imagine my ghost ship sailing along beside me, shrouded and dark. Not the life that I chose, and am now living, but there all the same and that gives me comfort somehow.

    • Hannah says...

      yes! I completely agree with that sentiment and immediately thought of the Ghost Ship in my life.

  90. K says...

    I was dumped a little over three years ago and, for the first time, heartbroken. A dove into therapy. Like four times a week therapy. And couple of weeks later I felt ready to start moving on. Two of my best friends from high school, who I had not really hung out with much recently, were also single. So we decided to have a “year of yes” and say yes to anything. Happy hour drinks even though we didn’t have makeup on? Yes. Someone texting us to go watch a game at a bar when we were already on the couch? Yes.

    One of those friends asked me to go on a party bus for a college football game where I would be the only one from my school, and everyone else would be cheering for the opposing team. I said yes even though I didn’t have tickets. The only guy on the bus cheering for my team didn’t have a ticket either. I watched the game with him in a bar, and he is now my husband. Also, those two friends married two of his best friends, and it feels like this is exactly where we were all supposed to end up.

    • Maggie Rabinovitz says...

      K – this is such a nice story! How incredible and a reminder to be optimistic – you never know what’s around the corner!