The International Writers Magazine: Lifestories

The Butterfly Effect
A Jen Ames commentary

What is the Butterfly effect? It comes from the Chaos theory and affects you, me and absolutely everything we do. The Chaos theory states that "Something as small as a flutter of a butterfly's wings can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world". It describes how a seemingly insignificant event can spark a chain reaction of events that lead to an outcome we could not possibly predict.

It got me thinking about how all the little things in our lives are so delicately balanced, and how every decision we make determines how that balance leans and tilts. If you make a risky decision and it turns out to be bad- it could tip you off the edge, but if you don’t take any risks and make any hard decisions you would just be suspended on the straight level and dull all your life- going nowhere.

Everyday we choose how to act, how to relate to people, how to see, how to think, how to feel, how to understand the world around us. They may not all be conscious decisions but we constantly shape out futures with them. The burning question is, do we shape our futures based on our decisions or do we make our decisions based on how our future will shape up? Are our lives part of a higher predestined plan?
What happens when we mess with that higher plan? In 'The Butterfly Effect' Evan messes with the "higher plan" by going back in time and changing things to try make a better outcome. But every-time he changes something, his life and the lives of those involved don't get better like he had hoped- he can't make things perfect because he cannot predict the consequences of even his smallest actions. Things that he changed or prevented, like the sexual abuse of his friend by her father- lead to even worse outcomes. It seems twisted to think that even the abuse of the child happened for a reason, to make her who she was. The more Evan tampered with the story, the more he lost his identity.

I started to think about the decisions I've made in my life, how even the seemingly littlest of things have had such an impact on me as a person. I have always been a big believer that things happen for a reason, when something goes wrong something good always comes out of it, there's always a bright side a better side. You have to let the past go because if you could change things you'd change who you are. I felt The Butterfly Effect portrayed this belief perfectly.

When I was unwelcome in my first halls of residence, it felt like the end of the world, I was lonely isolated and thinking of packing university in completely. There was one final incident that finally pushed me to get myself out of there and into a new home. I got myself moved to a flat in another building that just by coincidence had just had a flatmate leave.

That one decision to move flats completely rocked my world, before that decision I was unhappy friendless and dropping out of Uni, now I have a big group of friends for life, a career on track, a fiancé, I'm a lead singer in a band, (which came about through one of the friends I met in my new building,) I have achieved personal goals like running the 5K race for life, learning a bit of martial arts and a bit of poledancing (just to prove I could!) And I have never been happier or more proud of my life. If I hadn't made that one decision at that exact time, none of this would have come about, and I would not be the me I know now. Was I destined to move out on that date? Was I destined to move into that exact flat that day? Did I move into this new place by coincidence, or did I make the decision to move because I was destined to end up there living the life I am now?

I suppose the moral of the story is that our decisions make us who we are and if we could go back and change aspects of our lives, who knows what damage we could do. Something as simple as one tiny decision could make you a thousand times different to who you are now. It's like a pack of dominoes lined up on the table, you can't just knock one down, you destroy the lot. You change one thing, you change everything. The Butterfly Effect really made me think about my place in the world and how carefully I will think in the future before saying 'if only I'd…'

Jen is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth
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