During my lifetime, I’ve spoken with various folks who’ve expressed regret regarding some of the decisions they’ve made in their life. Most wished they could go back and make better choices. I’m certain had they done so, they could’ve ended up in worse condition since any change can lead to unforeseen consequences, not all pleasant, and some possibly downright disastrous. Perhaps an auto mechanic wishes he’d gotten a college degree, envisioning he could’ve become an executive, running an auto parts company. What if he actually had made the college choice? Who’s to say he wouldn’t have died in an accident, became a drug addict dying of an overdose, not met his wonderful wife, not had his four children he loved dearly, nor any other of the endless possibilities that could’ve happened? Sure, it might’ve turned out better overall, but it’s a roll of the dice. At his moment of regret, wouldn’t it be a good time to count his many blessings instead of looking back on perceived failures?
I recently watched a TV series where people stuck in a horrid future went back in time to change events that had led up to the apocalypse they’d found themselves in. By studying the past history, they reasoned if they’d done things differently, it would’ve resulted in a healthy, stable future. They worked diligently to change key things in the past that they thought would prevent the catastrophe. When those exact changes did not bring about the desired future, they tried yet again and again. In all cases, it either didn’t result in a better future or made things far worse.
Like many, I’ve made choices I’ve mentally kicked myself over. If I’d only turned left instead of right, acted instead of sitting on the sidelines, and a big one – kept my stupid mouth shut instead of speaking (or shouting). Every moment of our existence finds us at a crossroad. Some are so insignificant we think they are unlikely to change our major path forward. Should I use “but” or “and” in this sentence? “Is this a place for a comma or semicolon?” Those seem unlikely to change my life. In the case of this article, “Should I finish this and send it to my editor?” Well, I think it might, when published, have a broad effect. (Or is the “keeping my stupid mouth shut” likely to apply?)
At the present time, we have environmental problems we’re passing on to our children and grandchildren. If we make the kind of dramatic changes in these problems that the people on TV did for theirs, we would, in my opinion, dramatically change our future and that of our descendants. And not only for years but decades and hundreds of years in the future.
Instead, we are blindly racing down a road to a calamity that we may not be able to reverse. When we reach that point, will we, the creators of the mess – if we are not already dead – look back and say, “I wish I had taken a different road”? Unlike the Sci-Fi story, we will be stuck with our decisions.
Sorry, there is no do-over. If we don’t get it right, we will be stuck with the consequences.