It’s been said, “I wish I knew then what I know now” and although it might have been easier to gather whatever knowledge we have attained up to this point and use it, I’m not sure I would have taken that option should it have been offered to me.
I have also heard someone say, “You don’t know what you don’t know” — reminding us all that some lessons have not made their way to us yet. Although, only looking back do we see that which was unable to be seen.
Even so, no matter where we come from or what we have experienced, the lessons we have all learned have undoubtedly come through struggle, uncertainty, and fear.
A few years ago, I read a book of letters compiled by some of the most influential women of our day as they each found one moment in their past that shaped them in some way, and as they looked back on it, they wrote a letter to themselves, sharing the experience after seeing it from every aspect — from the beginning – through it – and after it was over.
In addition, I also heard a song recently sharing the questions of “if I knew the outcome, would I go back and change my past if I could?” Some might quickly reply, “YES!” knowing that a single wrong move changed the trajectory of their life from that moment on and they wish they could maybe erase some of their mistakes. We’ve all done things we wish we could take back. We’ve all had opportunities slip through our fingers, only to be lost forever.
Unfortunately, the problem with going back in time and “fixing” everything is that we lose a few things along the way. One thing we lose are the lessons that came through those situations and experiences. If we never have them, we never appreciate those moments of clarity and understanding.
In addition, those experiences shape who we become. Every step of the way. By changing just one single moment in our past, perhaps the trajectory we end up taking moves us so far away from where we are now that the moments we have come to love actually never occur. Then, where would we be? Would it have been better to have just left things as they were and allowed our lives, full of dead ends and wrong turns, become something completely new?
Because I thought this may be something we would all ponder, if even for a second, I thought it would be best to highlight some of the things we might miss — even if we had a chance to do this over again:
1. You will not always get what you want.
Life will make sure that our wishes are not always granted. The hardest part about accepting something we wish for is that we are not aware of what is just around the corner, therefore leaving our hearts broken. We have all lost something we wanted — a promotion at work, a new job, a new house loan, a negative pregnancy test result, a spot on the select baseball team, etc. Just because we want it, that isn’t enough. In order for us to appreciate the moments when things don’t go our way, it is important that we know what it feels like to need to work a little harder. And that’s okay.
2. “Fair” is not a word LIFE knows.
We can walk into life and think to ourselves, “I don’t deserve this” and think life will understand. But Life doesn’t. It doesn’t even play fair. You and I both know that. It can knock us down without a hint of a warning and while we are still trying to figure out “what just happened”, we are hit from behind and kicked again once we fall to the floor. We didn’t ask for this, but it is the hand we were given. You will have to find a way to not compare your life to someone else’s and let things unfold as they will. There are no rules Life can’t make and it will break all of them the same way. There are going to be moments when you just have to chuckle to yourself and say, “Okay…if this is the way it has to be…” and then you just deal with it.
3. Not everyone is the same.
It’s easy to assume that people will act, believe, and think the same way. Especially when you have been shown the same kind of attitude and behavior over and over again. You become trained to believe the only thing you have ever known. But not everyone is like the people you have met in your past. We are all different, but sometimes, we meet people who end up being the very thing you wanted in others. Prejudging others because of past experiences prohibits us from developing our own opinions for their own merit. They may end up being the same, but we must first give the “benefit of the doubt.” Stay in a relationship long enough to find out for yourself. One way or the other.
4. Fear is all in your head.
I wish someone had told me this a long time ago. Having someone push me past my fear instead of letting me retreat every time I was afraid could have made a HUGE impact on how I lived my life. I would have shunned the “careful and cautious girl” and allowed myself the freedom to explore and be curious, assisting in the choices I made going forward. Knowing what I know now about fear has allowed me to not only push past my initial fears, but has allowed my comfort zone to be much greater than I ever thought it could be.
5. There are no exact plans or blueprints.
Growing up, I thought I could plan life. I thought I could map it all out (no matter how horrible my drawing skills were and still are) and everything would follow “the plan.” No exceptions. What I didn’t realize back then was that plans are rigid and straight forward, leaving no room for mistakes or incorporating anything new. Planning gave me a sense of control and Life, at times, chose to remind me that even in the moments I thought I had it all figured out, there were things I never could have planned. For example, the helpful hints included in the book for scheduling everything for my wedding didn’t include the three things that weren’t supposed to be a part of the ceremony.
6. Share your story.
I hid for a long time and didn’t want people to “see” me. Some of that is still true today, but I didn’t realize how by allowing myself to be vulnerable and exposed would influence other people. Maybe I was a little embarrassed or afraid of letting people see a few more layers of the “authentic” me. I used to tell people, “What you see is what you get” and that was true. However, showing people around me a little more than the surface actually allowed my connections with people and my surroundings become something greater than anything that would have prevented me from telling a little about my life to begin with. Through it, it became something others found worthwhile in its own right — something I never could have predicted.
7. Little things matter.
As we set out to live our life on our terms, we seem to have this attraction to the glittery and magnificent, but life doesn’t carry a lot of moments like that — instead, it is full of tiny things that create feelings just as great, if not greater. Sometimes, it is not the exact words that are shared in a text that matter…it is the message behind the words. Becoming aware of small chances to see the world for its beauty, to feel its love, and to capture that moment in an emotion will never leave you, no matter how old you get. Even a simple note left under the windshield wiper of a friend’s car in a parking lot across town or a text wishing you a “great day” can remind you of the love someone feels for you.
8. Be open to surprises.
No one can predict life. Not all the time. Not accurately. Life doesn’t come with a script and some of the best moments we will ever have in life will come because we tried something new. We allowed whatever is before us to unfold and we welcomed the experience that came with it. We learned to live in every moment, sometimes having to think on our feet. Some of the best things that will happen to us are the ones we never saw coming — the ones that don’t make sense. With the unexpected, we learn to react truthfully with fun experiences and being fake isn’t permitted. Let life happen and put down the expectations.
9. True love near dies.
For some, love may be something that disappears over time, perhaps waning before then. It becomes something that is pushed aside because it isn’t something someone wants to fight for, no matter how difficult. Regardless of past indiscretions or faults, true love doesn’t end because a relationship ends. Some love is given because of circumstance or obligation. True love is buried deep within our hearts and the love that is the truest cannot be damaged by anyone. It cannot be taken away. In fact, this kind of love never changes because of space or time due to circumstances. It lives forever.
10. Strength and courage are endless.
We can all guess how strong we are and we can figure how much courage we have, but we never really know until we are tested to use both. Even if the amount needed seems to be more than what we now own. We can always develop more courage — by putting ourselves in circumstances that need it or when life hands them to us, we stand our ground. Even if we are bound my our physical strength, our mental and spiritual strength is what will keep us going. Our body may want to quit, but it won’t if our mind refuses to let it end that way.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards.” – Steve Jobs
We can all look back on our lives and wish we would have done this or wish we would not have said that, but think about all the things that single moment did to bring you here. Everything happens for a reason. Even our failures are meant to teach us something.
So, if given the opportunity to go back in time and “rewrite” my life – hoping to make it better — I would refuse. Because every step I have taken so far (even the really wrong ones) have brought me here. Maybe I have a few scars and a few less friends. Maybe I didn’t take the road people thought would be best for me and maybe I stuck around when other people bailed. But this is my life and right now, I just can’t imagine being anywhere else.
Michelle A. Homme 2016 ©