When I was a child I loved the Fighting Fantasy books by Ian Livingston. You may have read them yourself: it started like an ordinary book but soon you had to make a choice as to where the plot would go. If you made choice A you turned to one page and the story continued; if you made choice B you turned to a different page and the story would continue from there. And then you’d have to make another choice, and another. Every so often you’d make the wrong choice and have to backtrack, starting again from an earlier point in the story.
Computer games are much the same. You progress through a scenario, saving the game as you go in case you make a fatal error and have to return to an earlier point to try again. Writing is similar; you can draft, redraft, edit and then finally publish. Schoolwork, office work, emails, blogposts, Facebook statuses, tweets – they can all be edited, altered, changed until they are just right.
Life isn’t like that unfortunately. I often wish that I could go back to certain points and start again; say things differently, do things differently, make different choices and take a different path. I’d avoid certain experiences and add in others. But then I might not have my amazing, supportive, loving and wonderfully crazy husband. Or our clever, beautiful, funny and awesome children. My life might have been easier, I might have made more progress in the career that I loved – but I might not have these incredible people.
There are also times that I wish I could jump ahead instead of back. I want to know how my children will grow up, I want to know whether I’m doing the right things for them, whether I’m bringing them up the best way or whether I’m just setting them up for a lifetime of therapy. I want to know that the choices I’m making now are the right ones. I crave reassurance that our lives won’t always be this difficult, that one day DH and I will be able to live the life we want to and give our children the best opportunities they can have.
Of course neither of these options exist. As humans we live a linear existence – we start from the beginning of our lives, pass along a path and finish at the end. There is no going backwards or forwards except mentally, by memory or supposition. We cannot alter what has passed and nor can we, with any reliability, predict what will happen in the future.
It is all too easy to dwell on the past, to wonder the what ifs and maybes. It is also easy to sit back and wait to see what will happen. I don’t want to do this any more. If my life has no edit function then I need to make the most of it – this one life is all I have. I need to stop my relentlessly critical self-scrutiny and accept myself for who and what I am, both physically and mentally. There are some positive changes that might be possible but for the most part I am me, the sum of my experiences up to this point in time, and that’s pretty irrevocable.
I am young yet, only in my early thirties and there is hopefully a lot of life ahead of me. It’s time that I stopped procrastinating and seized life with both hands. As the saying goes, I’d rather regret things that I’ve done that regret the things I didn’t do. I need to start taking steps towards getting back out there and doing things.