Missed opportunities

December 16, 2010

Life is a made up of constant possibilities. We turn left, and this happens. We turn right, and that happens.

We can recreate ourselves purposely or a path can lead to many surprises; we never know which.

A blogger I follow asked readers “If you could recreate any day in your life, what would it be? and is it because the day was so wonderful or because you would you do something differently?”

It’s a deep question. The answer depends on what’s happened in our lives. If we’ve faced tragedy, loss, serious illness or an accident at a particular point in time, well, the answer is usually pretty clear.

Her question brought me back to a discussion my husband and I had a few months ago.We divorced when our lives and careers were at a crossroads. Having practiced public sector law for a few years, he was ready to become partner at a firm. And I was in my first corporate job, beginning to climb the proverbial corporate ladder.

When we split, he made decisions that sent him to south Florida, where he spent several decades in private practice. The kind of law he practices is something he really should be doing in Manhattan. Most of his work is with big Wall St. financial institutions. But he stayed in Miami for reasons related to the life he chose.

I was at loose ends. After my bad rebound marriage and happy divorce, I decided to take a huge leap and build a life and career in the San Francisco Bay area. And then back to Florida. And then back to California. And then… {Yes, I get bored easily.}

But.What if none of that had happened? What if we’d stayed together? Not too long ago, we talked about it.

“We’d have moved to Manhattan,” I said and he agreed.

“Can you even imagine how fun our life would have been?” he asked.

An apartment in the city. A house in the country. Maybe even a child.

It’s easy to look back over the decades and see in retrospect what might have happened. And to grieve for those missed opportunities. Even if our lives have been happy. As ours were. And even if we’re grateful every day for the life that we have.

We all make choices that send us down one path or another and when we’re young, we don’t realize all of the ramifications. Or the possibilities we’re giving up.

Of course, giving up one possibility means we’re embracing another.

And truth is, if we veer off course when we’re young, corrections are easier.

There’s no one “right way” to live this life. Some people mate up young and stay that way until the end. Others commit to a career and make that their focus. Kids, no kids. Root, move around. Different strokes for different folks.

It’s not common to reconnect with an old life nearly three decades later, as we did. It’s only natural that we would ask “what if?” And, I have to admit, it’s fun to live in that fantasy world for a few minutes. Not too long.

So if you’re young, say, under 35, I’d say this.

Choose consciously. Think through all the paths as much as possible, as if it were a decision tree. If X, then what? If Y, then what? You can’t control all the variables, but you can at least give them consideration.

Know that no matter how well you think it through, life will always throw you curves, hand you gifts and pop out surprises. That’s the fun of it.

Most mistakes are fixable, to one extent or another. If you want to fix it, you can. But you can’t just sit there passively. You have to act to make it different.

Be content with what you have, even as you explore avenues of possibilities. There’s a fine line between being open to possibilities and never being happy in the here and now. The constant search for new and better won’t end well.

I have to confess that the fantasy life M. and I sometimes talk about would have been fun. But that thought doesn’t keep us from enjoying every minute of the wonderful life we do have.

2 comments on “Missed opportunities
  1. DeeAnne says:

    Such a lovely post Carol!

    Having met the two of you, I can just imagine the life you might have had, and the conversations you’ve had about it, but I simply love your story as it is.

    All My Best,

  2. Thank you so much, Deanne! And holiday best to you!

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