Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if only you had_____?
Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you stayed in a relationship with_____?
Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you went to college, stayed in college, or attended a different college?
Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you had just said NO?
Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you had just said YES?
All of these questions will remain unanswered because that’s how life works. We don’t get to press rewind. Whatever happens at any given moment cannot be redone. Sure, we may have another chance “to make things right” or “follow that dream.” Second chances happen, as they often do. However, the circumstances will be different. They will never be identical, only similar.
So, what brings me to this subject? It was the result of watching a musical called If/Then recently with my sister. I dare anyone to see it and not reflect on his or her own life choices. That’s the theme of the story. If/Then lets the audience see what would happen to the main character (Elizabeth), depending on the choices that she makes. It can be confusing to some audience members in the beginning trying to follow the storyline. Soon people realize that her two lives are lived as either Liz or Beth. The audience then notices that Liz wears glasses and Beth doesn’t. What is interesting about the character’s choices is how it also affects others around her. Some people meet; some don’t. Some people begin a relationship; others don’t. In the end, almost every life event is addressed in this two-hour performance.
As my sister Denise and I sat through our third viewing of this musical (1-NY, 2-CA), we noticed more of the “little things” that happened to the other characters. After the show, we also compared the situations to our own lives. How different would our lives be if _____? There are a lot of fill-in-the-blank answers that we had to choose from.
After leaving the theater, I knew that I wanted to write about this. There were so many thoughts that ran through my mind that evening; it was hard to get to sleep. First, I had to come to the realization that every unpopular, uninformed, inconsiderate, and/or stupid decision that I have ever made could not be undone. Things I said—things I did—the ways that I reacted in various situations—all of it—CANNOT BE UNDONE! That really is a hard pill to swallow.
Hindsight is 20/20. Words could have been kinder. Actions could have been less hurtful or spontaneous. Reactions could have been less dramatic. Some “bad” decisions could have been avoided. That’s where regret comes in. We all have it, some more than others, and some on a larger scale. Either way, I believe that everybody has some regret.
This brings me to my second realization: I am who I am today because of my experiences. It’s at this point where I show Regret the exit door. There is no room for it, especially if I plan to move forward. Just look at your own experiences. Think about what you have learned from each relationship, job, or missed opportunity. At some point, you asked yourself, “What happened?” or “What do I need to do differently next time?” Then you moved on. YOU are also who you are today because of your experiences.
Life is a journey with multiple paths. Just as the If/Then character Elizabeth learns, each choice has a completely different outcome. Think about how different your own life would be if you would have married, stayed married, didn’t remarry, or wasn’t widowed. How about parenthood? What if you would have had no children, fewer children, or more children? Another perspective is for birth and adoptive parents—what would your life be like if you kept your baby or didn’t adopt? Not only would your life be different, but so would the lives of the adoptive children. What kind of home would they be raised in?
A third realization focuses on career choices. Life’s path to a job and passion project can connect into one, but for many people it often doesn’t. Is that you? What is your dream job—the job that you would do for free if you had to? Is that your current job? Do you consider your current job a career OR something that pays the bills? Have you said the phrase “life got in the way,” yet still wondered, “What if?” Following your dreams may sounds cliché, but it can still be one of your choices. I can tell you from experience that it is not too late!
This brings me back to reflection. How different would your life had been if you made the “other” decision that was available to you and you got to follow your dreams? Let’s look at another side though, some people just can’t follow their dream and have to reevaluate and readjust. Being a professional athlete or having physical limitations for a particular career are examples.
Reevaluate and readjust. That’s the beauty of life. Isn’t it great that we have the ability to readjust?
What if? What if I decide to _____?
Self-reflection asks questions. Questions support learning. Learning inspires living. Living is your legacy.
In the end, you will never know the true legacy that you leave behind. You only have control of now. So, live each day better than the day before.
“When you know better, you do better.” ~Maya Angelou