The Mandela Effect

The short definition of the Mandela Effect is that people often misremember things in similar ways. What makes it weird is when many people misremember something in the exact same way.

For example… Chick-fil-A. 

Some folks reading this are probably a bit taken aback that I spelled it that way. It’s correct. I know it is. You can check it against multiple signs all over town.

One problem: I also know it’s wrong. I have a notebook to prove it.

I was sitting with my daughter in our local Chick-fil-A many years ago, eating and chatting. She finished her food and went to the play area. I got out my notebook to do some journaling (it being the pre-smart-phone era for me). I began to write, “Sitting here at Chi…” I stopped, realizing that though I’d been eating their food for years, I’d never really paid attention to how the restaurant spelled its name. So I looked up at the big backlit sign atop its pole facing the road, and dutifully copied it: CHIK-FIL-A.

I still go to that restaurant. The sign says CHICK-FIL-A. It hasn’t changed. And yet my notebook still says CHIK-FIL-A. 

Folks who know me know that I rarely typo. And I’ve never miscopied things by hand when I’m…well…copying. I’m a writer and editor, a former teacher and database monkey. It’s always been my job to be as accurate as possible.

Yet there it is in black and white in my notebook: CHIK-FIL-A. And in red and white on the sign: CHICK-FIL-A.

And it’s not just that restaurant name that’s somehow become different in the last few years. It’s the lyrics to certain songs, the date of Nelson Mandela’s death (hence the name of the effect), and dozens of other strange little factoids that “everybody knows”…and yet no one can agree on.

How is this possible? 

More than one scientist thinks that the world we lived in collapsed, and what we’re currently living in is its closest quantum copy. And here, most everything is the same…except for these nagging differences that make it feel (for those who’ve noticed) like the universe is gaslighting us.
And sometimes, I wonder if the original me in the original world–the one in which Freddy Mercury howls the phrase “OF THE WORLD!” at the end of the Queen song, “We are the Champions”–I wonder if that original me in that original world wouldn’t have gotten cancer. 

And I wonder what else would’ve been different, too. Would Bernie be President? Would Hillary? Would I have to sweat my healthcare coverage every day under a Republican Congress?

Or would, like the name of our local restaurant, things be hardly different at all…

…just different enough to make me crazy worrying?

So I have to remind myself: What could I do about it, anyway? It will still say CHIK-FIL-A in my notebook tomorrow morning, but the sign everyone else agrees on will still have that extra “c.” Trump will still be POTUS. I will still have had one cancer treated. I will still be in a clinical trial to prevent more.

The what-ifs simply aren’t helpful.

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