All the things get done and you regret them and then you accept them because there’s nothing else to do. Regret doesn’t budge things; it seems crazy that the force of all that human want can’t amend a moment, can’t even stir a pebble.
– Darin Strauss, Half a Life
Objectively we know, as smart human beings, that we cannot change the past. We can rewrite history, we can shift points of views, we can manipulate details in the retelling to alter perception. But what happened is done and gone and simply cannot be changed.
And yet, we look back with such strong emotion, such strong desire with the advent of retrospect that we long to go back, make a different choice, do a different thing. If only… If only…If only…
If only and What if are such dangerous thoughts. They are the devil that sits on your shoulder, whispering in your ear that both the past, which you cannot change, and the future, which you cannot know, are simply waiting to strike disaster. If only I had made a different choice. What if that choice comes back to bite me tomorrow? One can lose themselves in this circular thinking, succumbing to the tempting comfort and self-indulgence of trying to repair and prepare. Both of these are fruitless pursuits.
That’s not to say that I don’t indulge. I have spent many hours ruminating about the past and dreading the possibilities of the future. I’ve done this to such detriment that I’ve avoided certain choices altogether out of fear of the outcome. I’ve convinced myself that the mistakes I’ve made in the past define what right I have to happiness today and fortune tomorrow. I’ve determined that those choices are so cemented within myself that I am incapable of learning from them and am doomed to repeat them if presented the opportunity. So I what if and prepare myself to avoid the confrontation entirely.
What kind of life is that?
One year ago, I half chose and was half forced into not having a paying job. I had been jobless before and come out of it, but this time was different. I determined this time to listen to my heart, which was desperately begging me to be honest about myself and what I wanted. When I finally did, I found that the entire universe was practically screaming at me to jump into my dream, come hell or high water. Instead of if only and what if, I simply heard this: why not?
I have learned so very much about the power of why not. It has propelled me this far and keeps me going when if only and what if are barking so loud they are the only things I hear. Beneath their useless shouts I can hear the steady undertone: Why not try anyways? Why not learn from that and try something else? Why not believe you deserve this? Why not me?
The mistakes of my past still nip at my heels daily, if only, if only, if only. And the frustrated demand of what if still waits expectantly for an answer. But, after much every day practice, the stoic why not grasps me by the heart and urges me forward through the underbrush, its simple refrain repeated: why not trust yourself?