Everything, Everywhere, One At A Time.

Urvashi H.V.
6 min readApr 10, 2023
Photo by Fiona Art: https://www.pexels.com/photo/blue-yellow-and-red-abstract-painting-4765691/

I recently watched Everything Everywhere All At Once. Some people thought it was a boring, overdone trope. Others called it “The Matrix but with a mother and daughter”, all while it was sweeping the Oscars.

I watched the movie twice. The first time it was just a thrilling ride into a rabbit hole but the second time I watched (when I knew what was going to happen next) I could focus on the movie more. I laughed at the pop culture references more, I appreciated the homage to classic movies and tropes more, and I traced the through line of the movie with more interest.

If you haven’t watched it or don’t know what it’s about, the quick summary is this — imagine if you could see every possible version of yourself (everything), every path your life could have taken after every tiny decision you took for yourself (everywhere), and see and experience all of those parallel lifetimes simultaneously (all at once)?

I think I loved this movie as much as I did because I often lose myself in what-if fantasies. Some people call it ‘being imaginative’, others say it’s dissociation — escaping into other worlds because the real world is too much. I think it’s a bit of both. It’s why I love stories — theatre, books, movies, television series, podcasts, anything that can help me live someone else’s life, somewhere else, or live my own imagined life if things had gone differently. It’s why I was so drawn to acting. The process of building a tiny little universe in my head and living there for a while was just so soothing, so exciting, so easy compared to the mundane minutia of daily life.

I have a whole multiverse in my mind with detailed settings, characters, timelines, and relationships. In that multiverse I’ve been a child prodigy who was interviewed by Oprah, I’ve been a feminist icon on a red carpet, I’ve fallen in love with hundreds of imaginary people in hundreds more imaginary scenarios. I’ve inserted myself into the Harry Potter universe, into Enid Blyton’s boarding schools, and been friends with the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

What I love about my imaginary multiverse is that it keeps me company. One long days and quiet nights, throughout my life, it’s been my constant companion. I’ve sat on a windowsill looking out at the streetlights and allowed the hours to go by because I was mentally somewhere else — in some beautiful world that was kind and caring, easy and comfortable.

Another great thing about a mind like mine is that I have the ability anticipate needs. I’m a great planner and an even better problem solver. I can quickly come up with different ways in which something could be created, used or fixed. It’s what made me a good product manager and a makes me a great communicator. It’s a core part of why I consider myself to be intelligent even though I’m not an expert at anything.

But as with every human characteristic it comes with a dark side. What do I mean by that? Organised people are often controlling. Laid back people are often unmotivated. Being highly driven can make you highly competitive. So with my deliberate escapism into better lives also comes the semi regular, unsolicited spiral into darkness. Rather than starting with a what-if and then traipsing into an alternate reality I get sucked into nightmare scenarios. I fall deeper and deeper because can’t stop the what-ifs.

While I was in school it was “What if I don’t get into a good college?”. While I was in college it was “What if I can’t find a job?”. Once I got the job it became “What if I’m terrible at this?”. Later on it became “What if there’s something else out there for me?” When I moved back to India and changed careers it turned into, “What if I never make it big?” which then turned into “What if this never becomes financially sustainable?”. Then I made the decision to return to corporate and now it’s “What if I hadn’t taken those years off? What if I had stuck to this and become incredibly good at it?”. For the last few days it’s been “What if I’ve forever ruined my life with my past decisions? What if I never find work again? What if I’m doomed to be stuck between these worlds — too opinionated for one and too uninformed for the other?”

When I finally hit rock bottom with these spirals I sit there and devise plans. Plans A-Z for every single scenario. If I don’t get a job by this date, plans A-F. If I get a job that I don’t like, plans G-K. If I get a job I like that doesn’t pay enough, plans L-P. If I get a job that pays really well but is toxic, plans Q-V. If I get a job and then get laid off again, plans W-Z. It’s exhausting.

Then every once in a while, instead of starting with a singular what-if, I’ll find myself smack in the middle of scenario C, three years from now, and it’ll take concerted effort for me to pull myself out. Every once in a while I won’t be able to pull myself out at all. I’ll just sit in one place or lie in bed and let the demons dance until they tire out or tire me out.

But honestly the absolute worst part is that I have a really difficult time living in actual reality. Reality that is neither as good or as bad as what’s in my head. It makes it very hard for me to appreciate little things or see the bright side. I have survived for so long on the high of having an extraordinary, fabulous imaginary life, or completely drowning in darkness that I struggle to make time for the simple things.

I’ve tried a hundred different techniques to battle this. Journalling. Writing down the best part of the day. Writing out the good things I did each day. But those habits are hard to maintain and sometimes feel forced. Thankfully during the pandemic I watched an online show of the play Every Brilliant Thing in which a young boy makes a list of reasons that life is worth living, to give his mom every time she’s feeling suicidal.

I started my version of the journal the same night. It’s in my most beautiful notebook. I maintain a numbered list in no particular order. In the last few years I’ve accumulated (literally) hundreds of little things. The items sometimes repeat themselves but I don’t ruin the exercise by trying to maintain data quality. Even if I write the same thing twice, depending on the cluster of things they’re in, I was probably referring to a different time I experienced the same feeling. They end up in clusters because I usually write after taking a trip or meeting old friends. For example, eating chocolate a Sunday night with an ex boyfriend gave me joy, but eating chocolate on a cold morning with my niece also made me happy. So chocolate gets to be on the list more than once. I also have separate line items of different kinds of chocolate. This journal is the only list that I don’t care to organise. The worst case is still the best case- that I’ll have even more reasons that life is worth living. On days when everything feels hopeless and dark I take it out again and read through it to remind myself that this life, this reality, this timeline is not so bad.

As the movie Everything Everywhere All At Once shows us — the drudgery of daily living, of “doing laundry and taxes” often feels meaningless. In this meaninglessness we can either choose to lean into the chaos and burn everything to the ground or fight that urge by collecting moments of joy from simple things; as if we’re picking flowers along an unending, boring trail to nowhere.

But back to reality. Today I am here. The stress of job hunting rages on. And as my mind jumps through everything, everywhere, one at a time I’ll anchor myself by picking flowers for my collection. I’ll write about the taste of a cold kombucha in the summer heat, the smell of basmati rice filling the kitchen, and the delight of spotting the neighbourhood cat sitting in the shade of my windowsill...

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Urvashi H.V.

Tech Marketer, Mental Health Advocate, Body Acceptance Struggler