Friday, September 12, 2008

You Might Have Just Dodged a Bullet

When I graduated from college, with a degree in journalism, I got a job offer for an entry-level job at a major news agency. Full of youthful ignorance and a healthy dose of arrogance, I turned it down.

As a result, I spent the next year and a half trying to get my foot in the door. When I finally did land at a local AM radio station, I was working for next to nothing. It was humbling to say the least.

Almost 20 years later, my family still talk about how great my life would have been if I had only gone to Atlanta. I’d be a major news anchor. I’d be married. I’d have a great family. And basically, my life would have been one long and magical walk in a beautiful park, on a bright sunny day.

Or would it?

Maybe my arrogance saved me from a worse fate than a year of menial jobs. Maybe I saved myself form an abusive relationship or avoided a terrible accident. I don’t know. I’ll never know. And, that’s okay.

We like to look at the path we didn’t take and romanticize it. “If I had taken that job, my life would be so much better!” Or, “If I had married the other guy, I’d be happier.” We might think to ourselves, “If only I had gotten that scholarship…” or “If I had moved to Los Angeles when I had the chance…”

The truth is that we will never know if things would have been better or worse. But painting that unrealistically rosy picture of the path not taken is a recipe for regret and frustration.

If you believe in God, karma or, even fate then you probably believe that things happen for a reason. Every decision I’ve made has lead me to where I am right now and the same for you. To tease yourself with dreams of what might have been or what you could have, should have or would have done is to perform an unnecessary form of mental torture.

Instead of ruminating over the past, look at where are now and figure out what the next step is. Yesterday is gone; but you can still do some with today and impact tomorrow.


The Conservative Sage said...

This is Where I am. I have things that make me wonder "what if"...I would love to know what its like not to think about that.

The Excuse Eliminator said...

Next time the 'what ifs' sneak up on you, try painting a less rosy picture. Put on your pessimist hat and think of all the things that could have happened that would have made that path worse than the one you chose.

Spending too much time dwelling on the perfect and non-existent past makes you more apprehensive to take chances and make important decisions.

Most people will tell you that thinking negatively is always a bad idea, but things like fear and negativity can play an important role in helping us overall when they are used correctly.