I spent an hour, the other day, peeling away the layers of my "What if" self. This is the part of me that wonders too often what my life would be like had it taken a different route.
The single biggest obstacle to my personal happiness may be pondering other scenarios. I am a person for whom a strong sense of security/consistency is paramount, yet I married a man who likes change. I wanted to be a writer yet I went into sales. I could draw at an early age yet I abandoned an art degree because I did not want to be graded. My friends are my best pillars of support and connection yet I've moved too many times to count.
My therapist tells me being in the state of "what if" is pointless. He likes to pose the question, "If you had it to do over again what would you do differently?" I give an answer: "I would take more chances" he looks at me and says "Is taking more chances better?" I don't know what he means by that and say so. He responds, "If you had taken more chances do you think your life would be more meaningful, more important...better?" Of course, the dialog is more drawn out than this but he eventually gets me to where I have to admit that I don't think having done this or that differently would be more important, meaningful or better than what I did do.
I've had to fight this kind of melancholy all my life...that urge to regret the past. I do understand how pointless it is. An oft repeated phrase these days is "It is what it is." I hate that saying. It may be true but it trivializes whatever "it" is.
I am drawn more to literary interpretation. The Great Gatsby is, among other thing, about trying to recreate a life; a life that never existed except in the mind of the title character. Nick Carraway tell Gatsby he can't repeat the past and Gatsby replies "Can't repeat the past?...why of course you can!"
Then, there is my all time favorite poem about what if.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them both about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Perhaps I take this all too literally and that is what makes all the difference.