If given the opportunity, are there parts of your life you’d do over?
To indulge in a daydream of “What-ifs” doesn’t necessarily signal a dissatisfaction with what is.
I have enjoyed the exercise to see how my life was shaped by events at various times.
- What if I’d gone to college straight out of high school instead of going to business college, working for several years, and then going to college for a degree in business?
- What if my father hadn’t died so young, and I was influenced by his desire to see me in the show business of his youth that he nudged me toward?
- What if I’d had children?
Some people think the exercise of imagining our alternate selves can be filled with fantasy while others may regard this time as encouraging regret for what might have been. Where are you on this matter?
Perhaps this isn’t a fair question because you’ve felt both fantasy and regret, depending on the issue and the time in your life when you struggled with the choice.
To me the secret is to consider what might have been, what I’d consider doing over, and then let it go. The exercise is good for me in shaping the future. What have I learned about myself through past choices that will help me avoid the desire for a do over later on?
Some senior citizens have been tortured with regret about some of their choices, but most of us aren’t haunted so acutely by the people we might have been. Like me today, we’re taking a moment to ask ourselves, “How did I get here?” Mindfulness tells us that we should not linger in the past but should keep our gaze firmly planted in the here and now, and I agree with that. That doesn’t mean I’m not curious about how my life was shaped by the choices I made.
I don’t think it hurts to wonder what might have been, as long as it’s not as a way to avoid or denigrate what’s happening now. We’d all agree that historic events create the trajectory of our lives. This isn’t more evident than today with the pandemic and with all the world events and social unrest of the last several years. Nearly every single person’s life will be altered by what has happened. It reminds me, for instance, of all those young people who enlisted in the military within days of 9-1-1, an action they might not have done if it hadn’t been for the attack.
As a writer, it’s occurred to me that a whole art form in novel writing is about the dynamic of people coming back into a different life from the past or from the future, or about people being trapped in one or the other location. Or there’s a protagonist being stuck in a bad marriage, with the wrong partner and considering what might have been at some other time. What about an office worker wanting to have a do over thus being able to move from the mailroom to management? These scenarios and others have entertained us for years. A do-over provides a fantasy we’ve all experienced in movies and books.
How about you? Have you spent time thinking about your life decisions and wishing for a redo in one or more areas? If there are things you wish you’d done differently, do you share them or keep them to yourselves?
Like I said, if you can entertain this question without regret or recrimination, go for it. It might be helpful for the future or a fun exercise in the very least.