Recently as I was driving home from work, my 10 month old daughter babbling in the back seat, me stopping by the local pizza place to pick up dinner for my kids because I got caught at work late, a 10 year old and a 15 year old waiting for me at home, a husband due home an hour after me, a pile of bills to be paid, a sink full of dirty dishes, and a fuse growing increasingly shorter, I happened to catch a few minutes of a local radio talk show. I only caught a few minutes of the show, but I thought the conversation I was listening to was profound and thought provoking. There was a guy who had called in and had posed a question or made a comment about how, if he had it all to do again, he might not have the number of kids he has. The question was raised:
If you could go back in time, would you make big changes in your life?
This had me thinking long and hard. Several decisions in my life have lead me to the life I lead now. While I am happy with my life and I fully believe that without the past choices I’ve made, I wouldn’t be the person I am now, I think I might go back in time and make a few different choices if I had the chance to do it.
Let’s take a look at a few profound and mostly negative choices I’ve made in my life:
- Lost touch with my first “true love”
- Became a teen mom
- Took 10 years to earn a 4 year degree
- Married the first time for all the wrong reasons
- Allowed my first husband to adopt my oldest daughter
- Had a second child with a man I knew was all wrong for me
My own personal list is much longer than this, but these are the biggest things.
The biggest life-changers on this list include creating and growing my family. I would never say that my family choices are ones I regret, but like the caller on the talk radio show, I do sometimes wonder how my life might be different today if I had made different choices. Where would I be today if I had not become a teen mom? What if I had never married my first husband or had my second child? Would my life be better today or worse?
To ask myself this, I am not living in a sea of regret nor do I feel I am living in the past. It’s just a simple, yet profound, wondering of “what if”. I know I can’t go back in time and undo the past, and I adore my children to death and there is no way I would trade them in if that were a real possibility, but I do wonder how my life might be different if I were childless or if I had been older when I started having children. Would my career choices have stayed the same? Would I have ever gotten married the first time if I hadn’t been a single mom struggling to raise a toddler?
While there is nothing wrong with asking yourself these types of questions, it can become dangerous if we spend too much time dwelling on something like this. We can’t change the past and I have yet to meet someone with a crystal ball who can see into the future. Therefore, at the end of the day, this is not a productive exercise.
If I could take a magic pill that would transport me back in time knowing all I know now, I don’t know if I would have done much differently because all of the decisions I have made, both good and bad, have helped me to become the person I am today. I am not unhappy with the person I am today and while I am always looking for opportunities to grow mentally, philosophically, personally and professionally, there is not much I would change about the person I am today.
I encourage anyone who reads this – with each step you make, with each breath you take, do your best to live for today and live without regrets. The obstacles you encountered in the past helped to mold you into the person you are today, and it is important to love the reflection staring back at you in the mirror.