Sometimes, I like to be pretend like I have access to my life’s timeline. I would hit the pause button on my life, somehow manage to get outside of myself, and stand on top of an almost infinite mountain range so I can see it at the bottom, stretching from the latest point in my existence to the date of my birth. Moving forward as the events laid before me become less and less recent, I notice that the events in my life are marked in pencil. The journey evokes many familiar human emotions: frustration, guilt, amusement, and love just to name a few. However, the emotions present themselves in two dimensions: in reliving those moments upon seeing them and in reaction to whether or not I am proud of the decisions I made in some of those moments. As I am elevated far above the timeline, I find in my hands a large pink eraser and, soon enough, a question hits me harder than the brisk, cold mountain air that envelopes this elevated space.
If you were given the power to change anything in your past, would you do it?
With this question in mind, I should probably admit that I am a perfectionist, albeit a recovering one. This eraser being in my hands, hands that belong to a human both flawed and perfectionistic, means that the temptation to put this eraser to use is ever present, itching to edit so my life looks pristine. But I refrain. I let go of it, watching it descend away from where I am never to be seen again. My answer is no; I would not change a thing or fix past wrongs because I realize that in the presence of perfection, there is no room for progress.
One of the most integral parts of the human existence is the journey–geographically, personally, interpersonally, relationally, and ideologically speaking. The high points in life cannot exist alone. In fact, the concept of “high” cannot exist without the concept of “low”. The highs require require the lows much like mountain requires a valley beside it in order to exist. And in their isolated juxtapositions, they can be harmonious or cacophonous. But when I look at my life as a whole, it is up to me whether or not I choose to look at it with or without regret.
Reality currently has me laying down on my family room sofa, not standing on a mountain top. I do not have access to my timeline nor will I ever have it. Even with the vivid imagination I possess, no amount of mental conjuring will make a life eraser materialize in my hands. But even if a life eraser existed, removing bad decisions, events, or words that were spoken and replacing them with good ones would throw off all of the events, decisions, etc that would happen afterward. All of those things are bit like dominos that are put in place with each one contributing to the involvement of the next in my course of life that has led me to the very point I am in right now. Changing my past would redirect my course and I would likely be a different person entirely so, in reality, living with regret and wishing I could change my past is simultaneously being ashamed of the person I am today.
I believe you are either a slave to your past or a builder of your future. You cannot be both. And with that being said, I own up to every single choice I have made, every word I have spoken, every event that has occurred in my life–all the good and the bad. And all the lessons I have learned during the course of my life thus far along with the wisdom from others that resounds with me, I choose build my future without shackles.
What are your thoughts on the concept of living without regret?