We've all heard someone say "if I had my time back, I would've done it different." We've probably all said it many times. I'll be the first to admit I have.
What we're really
saying is that we regret something. There's no shame in that. It's a natural
human emotion, and means we had a strong emotional investment in the decision
or choice we made. Nothing wrong with that either.
We all struggle with
regret. I know I do. But we don't have to become prisoner to it.
I'm 32. From time to
time I've felt disappointed about what I've done with my life. Sometimes I've
felt like I've accomplished little. I'll spare you the details because you've
probably got myriad concerns of your own.
floating around in my head like black flies that keep coming back no matter how
much you swat them away: 'why didn't I just do engineering?' 'Why didn't keep
working as a baker?' 'Why couldn't I just finish my PhD?' 'Why didn't I ask
that girl for her phone number that time?' Why didn't, why didn't I, why didn't
. . . . We can finish the sentence any number of ways, but the core message
remains the same.
In asking ourselves 'Why
didn't I do things differently?' we're really saying 'I made a mistake and
would do anything to take it back.' When we're vulnerable like this the regret
scares us into believing that our choices were completely WRONG and that the
alternative would have been completely RIGHT. Suddenly the road we chose
not to travel looks a lot better (painted lanes, wider shoulders and filled-in
potholes I suppose). We convince ourselves that it has to be. If our reality is
disappointing, the alternative has to be better, right?
Thinking like this is
wrong. I don't know about you, but I haven't figured out time travel yet
(though if you ever see a Flux-Capacitor for sale on E-Bay or Kijiji,
let me know). We have no way of knowing how things might've been different. And
we never will. Things could've been better. True. But, they could just as
easily have turned out much worse. But once again, we'll never know so there's
no point worrying about it.
And instead of letting
regret cause us to fret what we may have lost or missed out on, we
should remind ourselves of what we've gained by our choices. And if you stop
and think about it you'll come up with a good-sized list.
I never became an
engineer. Or a baker. Or a professor. So what? I'm glad I chose the roads I
did. They've allowed me to visit some interesting places and to do some pretty
cool and memorable things. I found out what I really like to do (I probably
wouldn't have finished a draft of my first novel otherwise). Most importantly,
I found great friends along the way. And I wouldn't trade that for anything.
It's not about making
the right decisions. It's about making the most of the decisions you do
Words I Can't Take Back
- December (3)
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What's a House Newf?
- The House Newf is from a rugged and beautiful island on the eastern edge of Canada called Newfoundland. He was first identified by a potter with a naturalist's flair, and he does in fact live in a house under the watchful eye of a cat that seems bewildered by the universe at large. That house is in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that's where the House Newf writes fiction and essays on things that add value to his life that may add some value to yours. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @theHouseNewf, on Instagram @thehousenewf, and like him on Facebook. The House Newf is a unique specimen. Every home should have one.