Where you need to be

Crossroads don't matter: You will always end up exactly where you need to beOne of my favorite movies (seriously it is a top 20) is an indie film that came out in the 90’s called Sliding Doors. The movie is about Helen, a twenty something in London. In the beginning of the film she is fired from her job (sorry, it’s not much of a spoiler alert). She heads home to commiserate with her boyfriend. You see her rush down the stairs to catch her tube and has to dart around a child. That small moment causes her to miss her train home.

There is a pause in the film and then a rewind and we see Helen rushing down the stairs again, only this time she doesn’t need to dart around the child and she makes her train.

Make sense? No? Ok watch it happen in this clip:

The movie continues showing two different story lines. In one story line she doesn’t make the train, in the other she does.

There have been many moments in my life where I recognized that I was standing at a crossroads. Going one way would change my life, going another way would keep it the same, not moving was something else entirely. I have made choices and then looked back and fretted, “did I make the right decision?”

Some of the larger crossroads I have encountered:

• Should I change high schools in my junior year?
I did. (no regrets)

• Should I go on that trip to Avon?
I did. (no regrets)

• Should I go to college in Memphis or New York?
Went to New York. (no regrets)

• Should I stay in school or should I enroll in conservatory?
I enrolled in conservatory. (regret)

• Should I date my boss?
ooof. Sadly I did. (regret)

• Should I stay in Brooklyn or should I move to Los Angeles?
I moved to LA. (regret)

• Should I kick the weird roommate out?
I did. (no regrets)

• Should I call him back?
I didn’t. (regret)

All of those crossroads made up a roadmap of my late teens and early twenties. Once upon a time I spent a lot of energy regretting choices that I made. The move to LA was a regret that I had for years. I genuinely felt like I had possibly derailed my life.

Dresden turns 30 with MillieEverything changed in January of 2003 when my Grandfather died. Suddenly there were no crossroads, just one road, and it was a long highway drive directly to Alabama to become my Grandmother’s caregiver.

Making the move to Alabama was a powerful moment for me. What it allowed me to do was officially crumble and toss my list of regrets. If I went to college in Memphis, if I lived in Brooklyn, if I called him back – if I had zigged instead of zagging my life would still have ended up in Alabama at that exact moment.

In the movie Sliding Doors we see these two parallel lives play out and while so many moments are unique there are some pretty huge overlaps. (and because I really want you to see the film I am not going to tell you what those huge things are)

Letting go of regrets was liberating. I began my thirties feeling like I was right where I was supposed to be. Accepting that there are absolutes in my life is comforting as well. Isn’t that an exhale moment: you will always end up exactly where you are meant to be.

Dear me at twenty,
Don’t worry too much about not staying in Brooklyn. In a few years you will be living in Alabama.
You will not be stuck there, and yes it will feel like you are, but I promise, eventually, you end up right where you are meant to be, living the life you want to live.
Love, me at (eep) thirty-seven

p.s. please go to the dentist more often

What would you tell yourself at twenty?

Photo Credit for map image goes to Pontuse.

This post is part of BlogHer’s Success Tips For My Younger Self editorial series, made possible by Kaplan.


  1. Lately I have been wondering how did I end up here when things are tough I look back and say do I regret things.. No not really. I just want things to be less hard. Loved the post.

  2. I love Sliding Doors! Also, Drop Dead Gorgeous – if you haven’t seen that one, you should. (I realize this has nothing to do with anything. I just bought both movies around the same time and they’re stored together, so there ya go. Insight into how my brain works…)

    I think the only 2 things I would tell myself at 20 is study more and don’t date deadbeats. At all. Let alone for a year…or 8 years. And maybe do what my aunt told me and join the Foreign Service.

  3. This post is one of the posts why I enjoy reading your blog. A couple of posts ago you wrote about looking at stats or something like that and being doubtful about things. So I thought I delurk. I can only delurk comment-wise, though, since I am not really a social Internet person (no blog, no website, no facebook!, no idea what twitter is). I also appreciate your input on the food problem. Thanks for writing!

  4. I haven’t seen the movie, but I often wonder what would have happened if I made a different decision. I, too, have my list.

    And while I agree that things will end up where they should be, I’m SO very grateful that the decisions I made have taken me RIGHT HERE.

    This is a great post, Dresden. Thank you.

  5. Oy, love that movie!! Also like the idea that some events are just destined to happen, no matter what other decisions you make.

  6. My DH has a saying that I’ve used in a blog post several years ago, and he has said several times over the years. “I may not be where I want to be, but I am where I am supposed to be”. As we near the close of our TTC window, I hold back on saying that line because I don’t want to believe that this is where I am supposed to be.

    I think I would have told me 20 yr old self to start putting money aside for retirement now. Few of us think that far ahead at that age, but if we did, we would all be so much further along as we grew older.

  7. OH you had me at Sliding Doors. One of my faves too! And I so love this post. Everything about it is just perfect. Lovely.

  8. Loved that movie and this post. I have had just one “what if” wonder but I am a big believer in fate.
    (BTW, I’ll add one more movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch Snatch. Freaking awesome. And also has nothing to do with the post but because I saw both around the same time.)

    And thanks for the reminder to call the dentist.

  9. This. Is. Beautiful. I was so worried at 17 that I would make a decision that would ruin my entire life too. I think you and I are so much alike.

  10. Love that movie!
    The one peice if advice is give my 20-year-old self is to love yourself exactly the way you are. Don’t try to change who you are for anyone -espically a guy.

  11. oh wow, I too enjoyed Sliding Doors and I think about that movie a LOT because it is really interesting to me how one simple decision could change one’s life – like, for me, I followed my best friend to her top choice school ..it was GREAT for her , but not so much for me. And it is one of my regrets. Another time I got a wild hair and decided to quit my day job at twenty-something , pack up my car and move to Boston (a city I have always loved). It was hard, and I left only two months later. I often wonder what would have happened if I REALLY stuck with it? And tried harder??
    At the same time, I met my husband..and *knew* it was right. I knew it. And we stayed together in a long distance relationship for 8 months before deciding I would move across the country to Seattle where we both took a chance on each other. Well, I’m so glad I did. He is an amazing man/husband /father.

    What would I have told my 20 year old self? to really listen to my instincts more. What is right for another may not be right for me. Listen to your gut!!!!!

  12. Sliding Doors is one of my all time fave movies… my hubs hates it.
    I’d tell my twenty year old self, don’t use credit cards and don’t eat all that junk food.

  13. Dear 20 year old Deb:
    Try to worry less.
    Try to find some form of movement or exercise that you enjoy.
    You are just perfect the way you are.

  14. I love this post.

    I don’t know, I was kind of already on this path at twenty. I think I’d probably just tell myself that.

  15. I totally remember seeing the commercials for that movie and wanting to see it but never getting to it. Is it on Netflix?
    When I start thinking about parallel lives my brain starts to mush. It’s a little much!

  16. Be good to yourself!

  17. I have lots of regrets in life but realize some actions I regret brought me what I have today and where I am.

  18. I got no regrets. If I were too look back anything that I might have changed would have changed what I have now, namely my kids.

  19. Great movie, one I’d forgotten about and I

  20. darned enter key… I think I should watch the movie with my young adult daughters. I love the photo of you and your grandma!

  21. I think about this ALL THE TIME! How crazy! I truly, wholeheartedly believe in this and that Butterfly Effect – where each small movement and decision ultimately ripples into where you are today, and had you have chosen ONE teeny tiny different decision… y’know? I can’t say I have a single regret.

    So.. with that said, I am not sure I would say anything to my twenty-year-old self, simply because I wouldn’t want a single thing to change :)

  22. Never seen it, but it sounds like it’s worth checking out. I’ve always been a planner — I try to weigh and measure what impact my choices and my alternatives might have on the future. But it’s impossible. It’s like trying to play chess with yourself in the dark.

    Dear Rachel @ 20,
    Unfortunately, he does not really love you. Do us both a favor: get off your ass and fucking run in the other direction before he leeches anymore of the life out of you.
    Um…for reals, go to class. And change your major back to English. You don’t want to be an interior designer. Or an urban planner. Or a psychiatrist. Or a political scientist…whatever that is. Or a geologist (calculus, Rae, seriously???)
    In March of 2009, you will have the chance of a lifetime. You will know it the second you see it. Please take it. It will end badly, but it will make you who you were always meant to be.
    You will meet a little Doberman/Husky puppy and you will name him Meatloaf and he will be your best friend and there is no shame in that.

  23. I too love this movie. I have Aqua’s Turn Back Time on my playlist and have sang it to my children while rocking them to sleep quite a few times.
    I am so sorry for your loss and the cock ups that followed with the d&c. I wanted to comment at the time, but life got in the way and I didn’t. I wish you all the best and truckloads of luck.

  24. Aaaaand I had to go watch Sliding Doors again. Thank you.

  25. I love this post. Letting go of regrets is extremely liberating. Everything I’ve done that I regret has made me who I am today. And fortunately I have many more “no regrets” moments. :-) I wish I could pass on my wisdom to my kids, but I suppose they’ll have to figure their lives out for themselves just like we all do. xo

  26. Need to see this movie, and I so enjoyed reading this post. I have a few of these “regret” moments. I wish I would have “done” more and seen more of the world in my 20’s. Though, I am also a big believer in things happen for a reason and I am happy where I ended up, so content I am:)

  27. One of my favorite movies too!! I often wonder what would happen if I had chosen different paths in my life.

  28. Honestly I’d tell myself to be more spontaneous and have more sex. Oh and possibly not to go for the guy I met on the bus although maybe not because if not for him I wouldn’t have his mom. Also to seek counseling way sonnet and stay the hell away from moms crazy ass church.

  29. I LOVE that movie too! I wonder often these days about choices and where they led me. But today I needed to read that I am right where I need to be.

  30. Love that movie. (Awesome soundtrack as well.)

    I’d probably tell my 20-year old self to take more risks professionally and writing-wise than I did. And to put down the beer, get out of the pub, and go explore more of Rome (where I was studying at the time).

  31. I loved that movie as well. It really makes you wonder if every single thing you do impacts your life or only the big things. I would tell my 20 year old self to finish college but I know I wouldn’t have listened. Even at my advanced age, I still haven’t mastered letting go of regrets.

  32. Funny, I was just thinking about this movie last week. Great post. Love the boots. I’m still trying to find the pair of boots I had in college but they continue to elude me.

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