Sometimes you just don’t know what life will throw at you. Even when you plan for a variety of eventualities, think through possible consequences of a decision and/or spend hours weighing up the pros and cons of something, still, the path you find yourself on can be far removed from where you thought you were going.
I recently made a major life decision. It was a fraught and conflicted decision made in a betwixt and between moment. I was never fully invested in my final choice, but made it any way in the hope that possibilities I could not predict would come of it. Since that moment, that one decision, my heart and mind have been pulled backwards, perpetually in a state of regret for the decision I made. The landscape I left behind shifted in ways I had always hoped for and the invigorating process of change began to develop. As I look back over my shoulder, I do so with both happiness and sadness. I am glad that things are changing for the place I once was, but deeply disappointed I am not a part of it.
In the space and time where I made the decision I did, I tried to be brave. I tried to think about the advice I would give others in similar situations – step forward, take the risk, be brave. We don’t know what is out there for us unless we walk through the door. Each step we take both creates and closes opportunities in our lives. It is easy to be comfortable, to remain in what we know, even when what we know is flawed. Taking a risk and stepping off into the unknown is filled with possibility and growth. Possibility and growth we can never realize if we don’t engage with opportunity bravely. Yet taking that step is extraordinarily challenging. Conflicted emotions, relationships, ‘what ifs’, and fear of regret compound the challenge.
I understand intellectually that regret is a wasteful place to spend time. It is a deep and boggy place that constrains your forward progression. It keeps your head on a swivel pointed backward instead of forward. I know this, and yet I still feel it and am currently consumed by it. I also know that I made the decision. No one forced me to make the choice I did. I was let down by the people around me and that influenced my decision and I still find myself let down by those same people as I grapple with the consequences of my choice. Maybe this second round of let downs is purposeful. Maybe it is the universe affirming I made the “right” choice in that moment months ago and that my response to the particular constellation of facts pushed me forward. I am reminded of an earlier blog post of mine where I reflected on our capacity to act “as if” something were true and in so doing, what we hope for can become a reality.
This blog post is not meant to elicit sympathy but rather to illuminate the complexities of our decisions and how we never really know where our choices will take us even when we try to plan. Does that mean we shouldn’t make hard choices? No, I don’t think it does. Part of being successful is believing in the decisions we make, embracing them with both hands, despite the emotional tumult that may accompany them. Being brave when there is hurt. Being resolute when doubt starts to creep in. Acting as if the path we find ourselves on is exactly where we are supposed to be. A friend recently shared this quote, and it fits perfectly [with a minor edit] here: “you can’t unwrap the present unless you let go of [the hurt and disappointment from] the past.”