You’re scared and confused. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly natural. Everyone is scared and confused at this stage. I’ll explain everything, I promise. But, please, if I could just politely ask you to hold all your questions and comments for now. I just need your appreciated co-operati
on to go through what needs to be gone through. I’d
appreciate it. Really. Please. Thank you.
I assure you, this won’t take up too much time.
You’re probably wondering, first of all, where you are. Of course you are. It’s perfectly natural for you to wonder such a thing. This is all new, it’s all scary. Trust me, I understand. I’ve helped plenty of others who felt like you feel right now. So let me tell you: you are in a safe place. You’re in the Before. You are about to be born, about to start your life and experience all it -
– Yes, that’s true, it is nice here, isn’t it? I like it here too. But we can’t stay here, there’s -
– Yes, I know, it would be nice if we could stay here, but, as I’m hopefully about to make clear, there’s much to be done, and we need you to hear our pitch and make your decision.
- Yes, I know, this is all very confusing right now, it’s natural, perfectly natural, and I’m sure you have a lot of questions, it’s natural that you do, so natural, but if I could just once more a tiny bit politely very politely request your co-operation in refraining from asking your questions or making your comments until I’m finished with my presentation here, well, that would just be magnificent, incredible, really just so appreciated.
I’d like to thank you in advance for your patience and, here, as a small token of my thanks, please accept this table-coaster.
Okay then, alright then.
First, a little about me.
You can relax, because I’ve been doing this a long time. I’m very experienced, and have received many positive reviews from those I’ve helped in the past, who found themselves in the same position you find yourself in now. My manner has been described as “disarming,” “affable”, and “soothing”, to give you just a few examples. Here, should you be interested, are my quarterly performance reviews from upper management. Please peruse them at your own discretion. I’m sure you’ll find them to be commendatory without being overly flattering, and -
- Yes, yes, I’m getting there. As promised, this won’t take longer than is absolutely strictly necessary. But if I could just politely oh so terribly politely not really but a little bit ask you to take a quick glance at this sheet, namely at the review section at the end, just here, yes that’s right, just there, which will ask you a series of feedback questions when we’re done here, which also will I’m sure no doubt absolutely sure not only give you a firm idea of what to expect from our imminent meeting, but will also no doubt I’m sure absolutely sure provide you with the necessary foresight to give an honest and fair review of my performance today. We take our performance ratings very seriously, and it’s all so we can help you, and others like you. Satisfaction is our number one priority. Please, be as honest as you wish but remember –
- Okay, okay, I’m sure you’re confused, and I understand, totally I do. As I said, I’ve done this many times before.
Okay, let’s begin. As I said, this is Before. You are almost alive. You are about to be born. Well, whether you are actually born or not will depend entirely on your decision following this meeting. You must understand, my job is simply to tell you, broadly speaking, what you will experience in your life, an overview of what to expect, if you will, but my job is not to sway or influence your decision one way or the other. To do such a thing would be highly unprofessional, and we’ve had many meetings about exactly that sort of thing, and let me tell you, upper management, and indeed our whole company, is very serious about maintaining strict professional codes, particularly the impartiality of –
- Yes, you’re right, this is a daunting thing for you to face right now. I understand, I promise. It’s natural, perfectly natural, absolutely natural, to feel overwhelmed by being presented with such a huge decision; to choose whether or not to be born and experience life. It used to be there was no such choice, but, now, thanks to me and the great people I work with, now you have that, you have a choice. Isn’t that wonderful? I’m sure absolutely sure you agree. It used to be that people just got born, that people were just thrown into existence, to being confined in their skulls, without them ever having a say in it, and once they got there it was much harder for them to find the way out and leave than it may seem, much, much harder, and the best they could do was to live in basic denial of or distraction from the ticking clock inside them, and they never even got asked if they agreed to it, and that was an act of intolerable cruelty, I would agree, wouldn’t you agree?
So, then, oh, and, please, remember, if at any point during our discussion you are feeling scared or anxious, please, remember that I am here for you, and, then, should you feel the emotional support I provide you with during our consultation is helpful to you, don’t hesitate to express any gratitude you may or may not feel in the review section I mentioned earlier.
Okay, very good, excellent.
So, yes. You are about to be born.
You will, should you choose to go ahead with your life, be born a male. This may or may not be considered an advantage from the start, but, that’s not for me to say.
You will be born into a slightly below average income family, in a well above average wealthy nation. Again, whether or not this will give you instant privilege is not my place to comment.
There will be minor complications during your birth, and the emergence of your head will tear your mother’s perineum. Although she will be fine and a relatively easy procedure will fix this, she will quietly resent you for it for the rest of her life, the way many mothers resent their children, even if they never admit it. However, it’s important to note that in spite of this, your mother will love you dearly, and in fact when you reach early adulthood and learn that no one else will care about you the same way your mother does, you will struggle greatly. But this is perfectly natural, unbelievably natural, so natural it hurts, and is in fact something a great many people struggle with.
It’s also important for me to note here that your father, conversely, will in fact not love you. At the time of your birth, which, as I said, is about to happen very soon, he will have been struggling through a lifelong battle with feelings of severe depression and isolation. No one in his social circle has any clue about this, of course, because he has learned to hide it well. He is and has been a functioning member of society with a steady job and a long-term girlfriend, i.e. your mother, whom he swears he will propose to as soon as he can afford to buy her the extravagant ring she deserves, and, if you were to ask anyone in that social circle, they would describe him as well adjusted, intelligent, observant, witty, interesting. But this would be superficial and indeed inaccurate. It is an act. Underneath the exterior, your father is miserable and has often thought about ending his life.
By the way, I am only telling you this now as I feel it is pertinent to your decision. Despite what many people will tell you in your life, should you choose to live it, genetics count for a great deal. Myself and my editors feel it’s in your best interest to know the sort of brain you’ll be occupying should you choose to live.
Your father is, in fact, at this exact moment, hoping that the birth of his child, i.e., you, will change everything. He has been, for the last nine months, pinning all his hopes that his inner feelings of loneliness and despair will vanish when he holds his baby for the first time. It’s not an exaggeration to say he’s counting on it, that he’s staking his life on it.
Now, please, remember, this is not at all to put pressure on you and your decision, this is merely to convey the factual information which I and my editors have deemed relevant and appropriate. It is just a simple fact: your father is hoping he can break out of his shell of isolation by pouring all the love he is sure is inside him somewhere into you. He wants to give it all to you. He needs to.
But, it is best at this juncture for you to know that, should you decide to choose YES on life and go ahead with your birth, your father will in fact not feel the love he is hoping to feel for you. He will look at you, your tiny, slimy writhing baby self, and he will feel nothing. That’s right, nothing. This will in turn make him hate himself even more because surely only a psychopath or “monster” could look at his own child and feel nothing, well, nothing except a faint feeling of disgust. That’s not me being sensational, “monster” is in fact the word he will use in his mind over and over. He will even hold out his finger and wait for you to grab it with your whole tiny baby hand, because this is the moment that television and films has taught him is the moment where the father feels with great force the deep love and great responsibility he now has as a parent.
But you, if you are born, will not grab the finger. You will just squirm and cry.
In fact, you will spend a large chunk of the early years of your life crying, throwing terrible tantrums, screaming until you nearly pass out. It will be like you are born with a hereditary pain inside you that you don’t know what to do with. You will never understand it, and it will never truly leave you.
But anyway, your father, if he ever meets you, will look at you and think you are the ugliest thing he has ever seen. He will feel a deep, sick shame and self-loathing so acute he will tell his girlfriend, i.e. your mother, that he needs a moment alone, but he will in fact leave the hospital and never come back, and you will never hear from or see him again and neither will your mother.
Good riddance, her friends and family will say, while secretly feeling sorry for her and wondering what irreversible damage will be done to you, which -
- Please, please, if you could just kindly hold all your questions for now. I understand, really I do, but I just need your co-operation at this point and would be oh so earth-shatteringly grateful if you could bear with me through this next bit.
I feel obliged here to mention that if you feel from this point on I am moving too fast or skimming over certain events you wish to hear more details on, this is in fact a necessity. While I might like to go into great detail on every stage or “chapter” of your life, to do so would take a very long time, years, decades. That’s how long a life takes. In the interest of using time wisely, I’ll move efficiently as possible.
I’m sure you can appreciate that. If you happen to wish to express that appreciation, I need I’m sure not remind you of the review section.
The important thing to outline about your childhood overall is that it will be largely dull. You will be a remarkably quiet child, and in fact you will not say your first words until you are four years old. Your mother will for a time suspect you to have inherent learning difficulties and will take you to see no fewer than five different doctors but each of them will find no clear neurological defects and will not diagnose you with anything. In all the tests they run you will appear totally aware, alert and intelligent, in fact to well above average levels, as the doctors will note. Your silence will be dismissed as simple shyness. Your mother will say things like “it’s because he’s waiting for the right words to tell me how much he loves me” or “he doesn’t need words to let everyone know he’s the best boy in the whole world” and other similarly cute things but underneath these quirky statements there will be a fear that there is in some fact something profoundly wrong with you.
When you do finally talk, it won’t be to say anything interesting. It will be just to say whatever words come to your mind. You will say them without thinking about what they might mean to someone who hears them. This is a habit you will keep through all of your childhood and it will get you into trouble with your schoolteachers on many occasions and will cause your classmates to dislike you, however this could also be put down to your general insular manner and propensity to prefer being alone to just about anything else.
Yes, indeed, you will go through all of your childhood and most of your adolescent life without making a single friend. Your mother will make similar dismissive gooey comments about how you’re too special for other kids to understand you, but again she will wonder in her alone moments if you are something of a freak. Again, this is not my word, that is the actual word she will use in her mind. Freak.
Again, I must interject here to tell you that my job is simply to relay the facts to you as they are, so, as they will say in the world you may or may not be about to enter, “don’t shoot the messenger.” This is one of many cliched phrases you will hear thousands of times in your life, many of which you will grow to shudder at. But it’s best you get used to them now.
But anyway. You will, as you grow up alone, carry with you at all times a sense of melancholy, a sense you’ve been tricked into something you didn’t understand the rules of, something you weren’t ready for. Your mother will blame your father for the way you are but you will blame yourself. You will not be directly cognizant of this sadness; it will exist only in the background of your awareness, but it will always be there, like a part of you. It will not leave you until you reach your mid-fifties. But we’ll get to that.
Obviously, lots of things happen during your childhood, but, like I said, we don’t have time to go through them all. Your birth is, possibly, imminent. Your mother’s vagina is opening for you. Picture it. Can you picture it? I am picturing it. Picture it, please. The midwife is slapping on a pair of surgical gloves as we speak. Your father is locked in a cubicle in the male toilets, sweating, hoping this is the day he finally finds the inner peace he has been searching for. This is happening. These are the facts. Again, like I said, again, this is not to place any pressure on you. It is just to make you aware. If I could just direct your attention again to the review section -
- Okay, I’ll keep moving. The broad view I’m hopefully portraying to you here is that your childhood, while compared to others will not be severely traumatic, will be largely unhappy.
You will however also have a hidden faith that someday, somehow, things will be better. You will tell yourself that you’re just waiting, waiting for the future, when everything will be fine. You will become well-accustomed to waiting.
But moving on. In your early teens you will discover computers. They will make automatic, complete and perfect sense to you. You will understand them fully, in ways you will never understand people. You will be able to read them, feel them, change them, control them, help them, use them. It will be effortless for you. Your teachers will marvel. They will tell you you are destined for big things, as computers are the future, is what they will say. But it will be so easy for you it will almost be meaningless. Many, if not all, the activities you will do will be like this: with a pointlessness about them, a joylessness. Like I said, everything you do will feel like it’s a precursor to something, like you’re waiting for each experience to end so your real life can start, and, although you will feel like you are completely alone in being like this, there will be, and there is in fact, right now as we speak, billions of other people who feel exactly the same, who are waiting for life to start while it’s happening all around them. And most, if not all of them, will live their whole lives thinking they are alone.
But I digress.
Let me just check my notes here for a second.
During your late adolescent years you will have a small number of romantic encounters, with females - in case you were wondering on that front - but they will all be entirely unfulfilling relationships in which you will always feel as if you have to try and in which you will regardless of any effort on your or their part always feel cut off and alienated.
You will exist with a coupling of anti-socialness and loneliness that will contradict and beat each other, and you, down and as a direct result any and all potential relationships or friendships you might develop will fail to flourish.
But moving on.
You will finish your teens and leave home and will complete a computer science course at a highly ranked university two years early and will start your own software development company which will hit certain markets at opportune times and before you turn twenty-five you will be a billionaire, and -
- Yes, that’s correct. You will make more money than you ever even tried to think about, than anyone in your bloodline has ever made before or will ever make again, so -
- I know, right?
Your twenties will roll on at a far greater speed than the first two decades of your life, and although sometimes the rate with which your days pass you will alarm you, you will be grateful that the waiting now feels more merciful, passing quicker and quicker, that whatever it is you are waiting for is hurrying up.
Your company will grow and grow to the extent that you hire people to run it for you while you sit back and do almost nothing and still make more and more money, and you will find it strange that the more money you make the less work you do and the less work you do the more money you make, but you will learn this is just how it is when you reach a certain stage of wealth. You will learn this lesson when very very few other people will. You will be in the top 1% of wealth, globally. Some would consider you incredibly lucky, but you will, in spite of all your wealth and all your status, never feel lucky.
You will still feel like you.
You will, after a few further failed relationships with women and meaningless, false friendships, try to fill the void inside yourself with things. Lots of things. A mansion, a second mansion, a villa, a small island, several cars, boats, planes, all the designer clothes, jewellery, gadgets, food, services; all the material things a limitless consumer can get. You will feel bloated, but not sated.
And all the while you will still feel like you are waiting for something, like any day now your real life will start, and at this point the background sadness you will have lived with up until this point will be so ingrained into you it will be an essential part of who you are. The people who interact with you will notice it straight away, the air of sadness about you, and although they will of course discuss it privately amongst themselves, each positing theories as to why a person so rich could be so miserable, none of them will ever talk to you directly about it, and you will live with it all by yourself.
You will try talking to a therapist once and once only and you will dismiss the practice before the hour is even finished. You will conclude that no matter how much money you pay a person, it won’t make them truly care about you, and you will tell yourself you would rather at least not devalue your own sadness by giving it away to a stranger.
You will like this line because it seems well crafted and dignified, but the underlying truth about why you will reject the idea of therapy is that because you know deep down that no matter how well you put across your depression, no matter how well you articulate it to another person, they will never truly get the way you feel, they might say they understand, and they might feel pity, but they could not really know because it will all be inside you and no one else will ever know what it is like to be you, it will all always be stuck inside you and there will be nothing you can ever do about that and that will be the scariest thought of all.
You will live like this until your late twenties. Your company will grow to be one of the most profitable companies in the world and will be listed in all the wealth magazines and your name will be revered and hated and you will have more money than you will ever be able to spend. You will gather possessions but feel poorer all the time.
This is just a simple fact.
You will know that if you were ever to voice your inner pain people would call you ungrateful for all that life has handed to you, and in many ways they would be right, but this will not change the way you feel, and -
- Yes, yes, I know this is all quite heavy stuff, but I assure you, we are doing you a favour here. If you appreciate this favour, then the opportunity to express that appreciation will be afforded to you when you reach the review section at the –
- Okay. I’ll keep going.
On the eve of your thirtieth birthday you will feel so exhausted from the way you feel inside, you will feel old even though there will be potentially so much of your life left and the thought of living for another fifty or maybe even sixty or seventy years feeling like this makes breathing difficult so you will go to a chemist and you will buy some pills.
You will buy enough to be absolutely certain they will do what you will need them to do and you will store them in your bathroom cabinet.
You will find that actually just knowing that they are there provides you a sense of comfort. They will feel like a form of company, and you will decide that, for now, you will just keep them there. They will always be there for you until you decide you have had enough and want out, and that will make you feel okay. That will make you feel like you have something to hold onto.
And then your mother will die, in -
- I know, I know, please, forgive me if this is a lot to take in. But it is important to relay these facts to you so you can make an informed decision.
Oh, and I have just received word from my superiors that your mother’s cervix is dilated and the nurses are administering the anaesthetic. So, please, I cannot pause for any questions, I have a schedule to keep and we must move on.
Your mother will die in a car crash. It will be sudden. She will die in great agony. After her funeral, you will go home to take the pills but you will find yourself paralysed when you reach your bathroom cabinet. You will feel a sense of liberation, or relief; it will be almost like if your mother is gone then you have no more ties to anyone and the way you have always felt inside might somehow disappear and like maybe this is a second chance. Your feelings will be fuzzy, confusing, tinged with guilt, but the point is that somehow your mother’s death will make you feel like you have a second chance to live.
And so you will sell your company.
You will read books about nature and living self-sustainably and grow attached to the idea that the only way to live a worthwhile satisfying life is to escape the grasps of modern society and consumer capitalism. You will feel weighed down by all the money and things you have accumulated and want to free yourself from them. You will sell your company and your mansions and cars and boats and clothes, all for an astronomical figure, just over half of which you will donate to charities, the rest of which you will keep hidden away in an account somewhere. You will tell yourself you will deal with the rest of it on your deathbed, when you decide who to give it to.
You will purchase a small vegetable farm in a remote rural mountainous area and will try your best to live a good, humble, honest, meaningful life.
Your thirties will go by so much faster than your twenties it will make you feel foolish for thinking you knew how unforgivingly rapid life can be, and this is what life will be like for you and for everyone: a series of humbling lessons.
Your farm life will be simple. The days will be long and hard, just the way you wanted. You will hope to find meaning in your life with graft and with your hands in the dirt but you will still wake up each day and feel, to your incredulity, to your anger, completely, hollow, however one thing will be different. You will not feel like you are waiting anymore.
Just to be clear, this will not be because you feel as if thing you have been waiting for has arrived, but because you are now sure it is in fact never going to arrive. You will have given up on hoping for something better. You will accept your life, and on some level this will provide some comfort. You will no longer be weighed down by the waiting; this will not be insignificant.
Anyway, you will learn how to run a farm and will find it paradoxical how it is so much more work than your global business ever was with only a tiny fraction of the monetary return, but you will dismiss it as the injustice of the world.
The next twenty and a bit years of your life will zip by with little incident. The days will run away from you and each year will get shorter and shorter, but this is just the way it is for everyone.
Then, when you will reach your mid-fifties and be so entrenched in your routine to be almost numb, everything will change.
You will meet her.
She will be a relative of a neighbouring farmer, whom over the years you will have occasionally held impersonal conversations with when you met at the market. She will be blond, small, and curious. She will be smart, funny and sensitive. She will be the best and worst thing that will ever happen to you.
You will look at each other and you will see each other. You will talk to each other and you will hear each other. It will be effortless, it will be fun. It will be the first time in your whole life you will feel excited about another person. This will frighten you but it will not be a fear you will want to go away, it will be a fear you will want to embrace. You will meet her regularly at the market, then other places, and then before either of you officially says it you will be in a relationship.
You will get to know each other, fast. You will learn she is divorced, but with no children, which will be good for you because you would not wish to inflict the stresses of life on someone without their consent, and because, as you will both agree, there’s far too many people anyway.
You will share things together. You will develop a language, a shorthand. You will make too many in jokes together for either of you to keep up with. You will feel like you’re catching up on lost time and neither of you will want to wait around.
You will feel that the five decades of waiting and unhappiness and isolation and depression were all worth it, because they shaped you exactly this way, and only you in this shape could have found her. You will not be resentful of the fifty years of misery. You will be thankful for the lessons they taught you. You will have no regrets, only a wonderful future to look forward to.
You will hire someone to run your farm while the two you will travel the world together using the obscene amounts of money still left in your bank, money which you have ignored for years, money which she will not care about, by the way, because, like I said, she will look at you and truly see you.
You will make wonderful memories together, in Paris, Rome, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Shanghai, Tokyo, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, New York, Toronto, and every day you are with her you will think: this is it, this is actually it, this is what I was waiting for, all those years, it’s here now, I gave up on the waiting but here it is, the waiting is over, I’m sorry for giving up on you, and thank you so much for coming.
You will get married. Your wedding will be small. You will promise to make each other happy for the rest of your lives. You will mean it.
Your life will take on a nice rhythm. You will return to the farm and run it together and now the work will become deeply meaningful to you because it is shared with her. Everything in your life will feel this way. Blessed, enriched by her.
You will share two blissful years together, and then, just when you are getting accustomed to your happiness, she will get sick. The type of sick that does not get better. You will pay for the most prestigious doctors in the country, the best your money can afford, but her condition will deteriorate. You will stay by her side, holding on, while she battles with the illness. You will become weighed down with hope again. You will wake many times during the nights to cry, but you will make sure you never show it in front of her, as you will know you must stay strong for her. You will watch her get weaker and slower. You will assist her in all her usual activities. You will tell her no matter what happens, you will love her forever, and you will mean it.
Then, after a long, protracted battle with the illness, she will die, while you weep by her side.
You will want to follow her to wherever it is she’s going, but you will be stuck in life, a life you will curse for giving you something so beautiful only for it to be taken away, in your eyes much too soon, when your love for her was still in the ascendancy.
Your lifelong sadness will be back but this one will be far more acute than the dull chronic distant pain you knew before. Your pain will be crippling, deafening.
You will think about those pills again, but you will be too defeated, too limp, too weak to even gather the nerve to swallow them.
Your farm life will continue, as you will work away each passing day. You will begin waiting again, but now, this time, you will know exactly what it is you will be waiting for.
To join her, where she is, and meet her again.
It will not come as quickly as you will want, in –
- Yes, I know, this is serious stuff. But I’m almost finished. The time for you to choose is fast approaching.
You will live for a long time without her, for another three decades, in fact. You will live alone, rarely speaking to or seeing anyone, working on your farm in solitude, until one day when you will collapse in your cabbage patch and you will die.
Heart attack. The -
- I know, we’re pretty much done here. If I could just perhaps maybe a tiny a bit politely I’m not really doing this but actually if I could once again remind you of the review section at bottom of this pamphlet here. I hope I have been helpful today. Your feedback is very important to us. It allows us to provide better services to all those who will be in your position in the future.
Okay, so, okay, there you have it, that is your life. I know you might be thinking it sounds bad, but many would consider you incredibly lucky you to have those brief fleeting months of happiness, but that is not for me to say, remember, I am just here to provide you with the necessary information.
Now if you have any questions I would be happy to take them, and if you need some time to think about your decision that is totally understandable, but I feel I should inform you that your mother’s contractions are only a minute apart and everyone is waiting for you. Life is expecting you.
Okay, whenever you are ready.