The Worst Question of All — What If?

Hannah Kim
4 min readApr 6, 2017

*Spoiler alert for La La Land, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, The Office. Maybe.

I recently watched La La Land. I still can’t seem to get its epilogue out of my mind. For those of you who have not seen the movie (and do not mind a little bit of spoiler), this was when two people, Sebastian and Mia, share a moment and imagine what their life could have been if they made a different choice back then. For seven and a half minutes, we experience another version of their love story. The alternative.

La La Land. Sebastian and Mia together.

What if Sebastian kissed Mia from the first moment.

What if Sebastian had gone to Paris with her.

what if I chose him/her.

It’s a question we all fear to ask but the question we cannot stop asking. We as humans fear what our life could have been and we wonder. We speculate and fantasize the better versions of our lives based on different choices we could have made yesterday, a month ago, or years ago. And we doubt.

What ifs in Media

This is definitely a popular theme in movies and TV shows and La La Land is certainly not the first or last movie to showcase it.

Like I said, we do what ifs a lot.


Friends s6e15–16 Opening

Season 6 Episode 15–16 “The One That Could Have Been” is a classic What if episode.

What if Rachel married Barry?

What if Ross had never gotten divorced?

What if Monica was still fat?

What if Chandler had quit his job to pursue his dream as a writer?

What if Joey never got fired from Days of Our Lives?

What if Phoebe had taken a job offer at Merrill Lynch, a investment management company?

One news from Rachel’s ex triggers this entire episode, leading everyone wondering about another versions of themselves.

How I Met Your Mother

HIMYM S7E3 Ted meets Victoria, one of his ex-girlfriends

Ted meets one of his ex-girlfriends and he asks what their lives would be like if they had stayed together. What if.

“Would we have been there together? We’d go home, to our home? You cook. I do the dishes. I’m happy that you are happy. But damn it. What if?” — Ted

What ifs in My Life

I certainly have many what ifs in my life.

What if I hadn’t moved to Canada?

What if I had gone to a university in the States?

What if I had held on to him?

What if I had stayed at my previous job?

These doubts range from my past choices for education, relationship and career. Career is a big subject at the moment since I am in the middle of a career change. I keep going back to my previous job, education and even hobbies I had and having regrets.

And it does not stop with the past. Once what if has been planted in your head, it messes your present and future.

Am I doing this right?

What if I fail?

These spiralling questions put your life on hold because you start questioning everything you do. You become afraid and insecure. Like me when it comes to applying for new jobs.

What can we do

So what do we do? I realized the problem by recognizing the pattern from TV shows so I went back and tried searching for an answer.

Friends — You are still you

Even in this alternative universe, friends in Friends are all together. Phoebe plays guitar, Chandler and Monica are together, and Joey is Joey.

Well, maybe except fat Monica

Whatever choices you make, you are still you. Some things just might be out of your control but whatever path you decide to take, you come out being you.

How I Met Your Mother — It/she/he is coming at the right timing.

Ted and Tracy, Ted’s wife

Some things just take time. Ted took 9 entire seasons to tell the story of how he met his wife. There was a lot of what ifs and doubts. Yet, he does not give up. Whatever you are working towards, believe in yourself and keep going at it. Who knows. We might be able to tell our story to others just like Ted.

The Office — Trust Yourself, Conquer Your Fear

The Office S9E27 Pam’s dialogue

I want to end this with a quote from The Office finale. It is from Pam and it is a message for anyone like me out there, asking what ifs.

It would just make my heart soar if someone out there saw this, and she said to herself, be strong, trust yourself, love yourself, conquer your fears, just go after what you want. And act fast, because life just isn’t that long.