It was the place where souls go between lives. Old Soul, who had lived over two hundred lives on Earth, had invited New Soul, who had lived only five lives on Earth, to accompany him as he chose his next life. Of course, ‘he’ wasn’t really a ‘he’, since souls are genderless, and can choose to be male, female or non-binary in their next lifetime.

“What gender do you think I should identify with in my next life?” asked Old Soul, using the terminology that had become popular on Earth, as the human species had evolved their understanding of gender identity.

“Well, I haven’t lived many lives,” said New Soul, “but I’ve lived enough to know that Earth is a man’s world. So, if I were you, I would choose to be a powerful man, perhaps an important politician.”

“Oh, I’ve already lived that life,” said Old Soul, who had been a mentor to New Soul since he’d completed his previous lifetime. “And I have no desire to live it again. I began my career with good intentions but became corrupt over time. I enacted policies that benefited my financial sponsors — powerful corporations and lobbying groups — and not the people I was elected to represent. When I returned here, I had to confront the misery and injustice I had caused on Earth. It took me several lifetimes of good deeds to make amends for that. No, I don’t want to risk being corrupted again. Besides, I have been a man for my last three lifetimes, I think I’d like to be a woman this time.”

“Okay…” New Soul thought about it for a moment. “Well, if you’re going to be born a woman, you should choose to be beautiful. On Earth, beauty is a form of power, especially for women, and you can use it to your advantage.”

“This is true,” said Old Soul, bemused, “but it’s not as simple as that. I have lived several lives as a beautiful woman and none of them were very happy. Oh, it’s all very well when you are young,” he added, in response to New Soul’s look of scepticism, “but over time, beauty fades, and as a woman who’s always been defined by her beauty, you discover that your value fades too. In my last lifetime as a beautiful woman, my husband left me for a younger woman after fifteen years of marriage and I ended up alone and miserable, mourning my lost beauty.”

New Soul sighed. “Okay then, why not keep it simple? Be an average-looking woman who is extraordinarily talented, perhaps a singer or an actress, and becomes rich and famous as a consequence. Beauty may fade over time but talent doesn’t. And I know you’re returning to Earth because you want to help people, so you can use your platform as a famous person to be a positive influence, without the risk of becoming corrupted by political power or fixated on your beauty.”

It was true. Old Soul had lived so many lives that he had completed his evolution on Earth and was not obligated to return there ever again. However, he had chosen to return to become a mentor to others on Earth, as he was in the spiritual realm. Of course, the moment he entered a human body, he would forget all the knowledge he had acquired in his previous lifetimes and his intention for this life. But he trusted that he was spiritually evolved enough to remember his intention on a subconscious level and find a way to fulfil it.

“This has been an interesting discussion,” said Old Soul, “and I thank you for your suggestions. You speak from the experience of five lifetimes on Earth, but I will make my decision based on my experience of over two hundred lifetimes. It might surprise you to know that all of my happiest and most gratifying lifetimes were as what would be considered ordinary people on Earth, living banal lives, without the power or beauty or fame or riches that you younger souls, and indeed, many on Earth, aspire to possess. One of my happiest lives was as a farmer in an impoverished country. I spent my days out on the land, tending to my sparse but sufficient supply of animals and crops. I had a partner and children who loved me, and was a respected member of the local community. This is the type of life I will choose now, as a woman born to loving parents in humble circumstances, destined for no greatness on Earth but to achieve goodness in small but significant ways. Now, New Soul, what life would you like to choose?”

“Are you serious?” Generally, New Souls were not given the opportunity to choose the circumstances of their next life, which were dictated by their mentor. But mentors were known to make exceptions on occasion.

“Sure. Go ahead. I’m curious as to what you will choose.”

New Soul responded immediately. “I’d like to live a life as a rich, powerful, handsome man.”

Old Soul smiled and wished New Soul well. After five lifetimes, he probably would have chosen similar life circumstances, notwithstanding the warnings of any mentor, because while some lessons can be taught by others, other lessons have to be learned for oneself.