Every Life We’re Living: The Watershed Mindset and If/Then: A New Musical

If_Then

In which arduous quests approach, husbands die at war, and choices must be made on the path from if to then.

To my dear reader,

Centered around the character of New Yorker Elizabeth, If/Then: The Musical tells of the two parallel lives she would lead depending on a seemingly trivial decision: which friend to spend time with in Central Park.  In many ways, I found the show’s explorations of everyday life refreshing, such as when the pregnant protagonist’s husband says “I understand pregnancy makes women emotional-” to which she responds “I’m not emotional. Fuck you; I’ll kill you,” as she eats cheerios. Not that I’ve ever been a pregnant woman. But I’m pretty sure I’ve told someone “I’m not emotional. Fuck you; I’ll kill you,” as I’ve eaten Cheerios.

But I digress.

Although I found the show inventive and relatable in many regards, I also found it to be musically unremarkable. That being said, there is one song from If/Then that I keep coming back to, called “Always Starting Over.” It occurs near the show’s end, when Elizabeth finally comes to terms with her army doctor husband’s untimely death during deployment. Although vocally impressive and catchy, neither the song’s lyrics nor its composition are groundbreaking. What interested me more was the perspective the song offered, and its relationship to an idea I read in Tom Vanderbilt’s book You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice.

Vanderbilt’s idea boils down to this: people usually have “watershed mindsets,” meaning they think that all their watershed moments – defining moments big and small – are behind them, and that they are already the complete version of themselves. This is understandable. It is also ridiculous. How do you know that all your watershed moments are behind you? In its own way, “Always Starting Over” speaks to this, saying that survival means adaptation, that there is no such thing as a final draft of a person.

On the day that this post is published, I’ll begin a cross-country road trip from my old home of Raleigh, NC to my new home of Tacoma, WA. Three months ago, I graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, and upon returning, I’ll have no job and no plan. In all honesty, this makes me afraid. I’m afraid that I’ll feel stuck coming back to the city I just left. I’m afraid I won’t be able to build a new life there. But that is foolishness, because whether I choose or whether it is chosen for me, I will be writing a new draft of myself over and over and over somehow. Trite? Maybe. Maudlin? Perhaps. Emotional? Never.

I’m not emotional.

Fuck you; I’ll kill you.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert

 

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