A couple of things struck me recently, and I think they’re related. But I won’t know until I process it. And this is my Processing Place. And you are my unwitting victims – I mean readers.
I was thinking about redos. About how life would be different if different decisions had been made. We can never know what paths our lives might have taken had we not taken that job, dated that guy, moved to that town. Quit that job. Broke up with that guy. On and on. Although it’s tempting to think that our lives would be better if we had done things differently, they might actually be worse. Of course, that doesn’t fit into the “grass is greener” image that most of us harbor when we look back at decisions we’ve made and wonder, “What if?”
I had a conversation with an ex once. (He’s happily married with a family, by the way.) We talked about how it’s tempting to think about what might have happened had we stayed together. But then he pointed out that there’s no way of knowing if we’d still be together today. That life can take twists and turns, and we might have eventually separated for another reason entirely.
That brings me to a picture I saw of an old friend. A friend who was, 30+ years ago, lively, beautiful, creative, funny, vivacious, crazy. I guess I expected her to always be that way. But the picture I saw today was of a matronly older woman (she’s a year older than me), and I NEVER think of myself as matronly or old. Now, I have no idea if she’s still creative and funny and crazy. She probably is. But she just doesn’t look like what I thought she would turn out to be.
I wonder what decisions she made that led her to where she is today. I wonder if there was a hidden path that took her to matronly instead of to, say, artist or vice president or supermodel. I wonder if she’s happy with where she is, if she looks back at a particular fork in the road and wonders, “What if I had taken a right there, instead of a left?”
I look back at those forks a lot, especially when I feel like a decision I made was a bad one. (My wise friend Kent says there are no bad choices, just choices. I wonder if that works for decisions, too.) Would I be a vice president in that company, if I hadn’t quit? Would I still be friends with that guy, if I hadn’t dated him? Would I be matronly, instead of – well, whatever I am today?
I know there’s no way to know. And there’s no way to go back and remake those decisions. Maybe a different decision would have made me a much happier person – or a much sadder one. I believe things happen as they’re supposed to, so I’m supposed to be where I am today. But sometimes I’m not so fond of where I am, or the path that led me here. And I do wonder, where would I be if I had taken a right there, instead of a left.