The saddest words ever in every language probably are ‘What If?’
The awful truth about life is that it goes on. Whether you want it to or not; it just goes on. But regret keeps us trapped in the past, trapped in this bizarre world that never even existed in the first place. Kierkegaard believed that life can be understood backwards. We analyse the past and we understand life. But, sadly, it can only be lived forwards.
That’s the thing about being human. We don’t only dream of a better future, but we also work really hard to imagine a better past. A different past. One that would give all kinds of alternate outcomes and new meanings to who and where we are now. We change. The world changes around us. The people in our lives change as well and nothing really stays the same. As a reminder that we used to be different. That our lives used to be different. And we play with this new version of who we are and we pretend that our present self could travel back in time and correct our mistakes.
And when the loss of a dream or a loved one gets to us, we know it will be difficult. Soul crushing, life threatening, peace disrupting. It will be a piece of glass, stuck deep within our psyche. The regret comes in waves, like a frightful tsunami destroying everything within, in that one moment of a happy memory or a place, a smell, a face cut or the occasional similar piece of clothing, or in worse cases, other peoples successes. It doesn’t ever happen though, unless you live each day like it is the last. To love deeply without any hindrances, to laugh freely without any worries, to jump into the deep end of life without a safety line, it takes a lot to be the person we wish we could be and stop hiding behind the person we are expected to be.
Maybe we can do it. Maybe we can’t. We will never know the answer to the ‘What If?’ unless we jump. It may turn out to be the wrong end, but won’t it be worth knowing the answer? Or are we only going to escalate the ‘What If’ into ‘Why Me?’