Unfortunately I don’t have the benefit of foresight, and life doesn’t really allow for do-overs. But what if we had that opportunity? What if we could go back to those pivotal choices in our life and change it?
If you’ve seen the movie Arrival, which is amazing, then you know that the main character does hold the power to foresee, yet she makes the same choice, knowing that this choice will bring her both happiness and despair.
If we could go back and make a different decision, would we? Because each decision in our life, specifically the ones that we control, has moved us in one direction, leaving all others closed. We are a collection of our choices, whether good or bad, and they inform our character, our relationships and our next choices. I am a strong believer in embracing all the choices I’ve made, even the wrong ones because they’ve made me who I am. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t change some of them if given the chance. Moments mark us with experience, sometimes they leave a scar. So if given the chance to change a moment, there are some I certainly would.
What I would change
I’d go back to what I believe was a critical misstep in my youth. I was pretty obsessed with being liked or loved or wanted by boys. This desperation for acceptance and attention destroyed my self- worth. This hunger to be attractive and desired gave me no real compass to figure out who I was. It led me to so many mistakes. I chose every time to dismiss myself in favor of some boy. It also made me insecure and kept me on a roller coaster of self hate. And this insecurity and disconnection made me unfaithful, which was a pattern that started at 15. My message to my young self would be, “Focus on you. None of these boys will be a source of happiness. And if you respect yourself, the next 20 years will be better.”
I went to the college my mom chose for me. It wasn’t what I wanted. And I left after two years to be in a place more diverse and affordable. I don’t completely regret my first two years, as I met one of my true life-long friends. But if given the chance, I would have gone to the college I wanted to go to on full scholarship. And I wouldn’t still be paying back school loans! When I transferred, I also made another mistake. I joined my best friend’s sorority because I loved her and knew many of the people already. I needed to feel like I belonged to something, anything. I do appreciate that many of those girls were kind to me and supportive. But it wasn’t where I belonged. I never felt like I was part of it. I always felt like an outsider. So I should have found my people, the outsiders. I just wasn’t confident and felt so invisible.
The choices I’d most want to change are the times when I put myself in harm’s way. I just didn’t have a fear of going off with people I didn’t know. What I know now is that I got lucky. The only reason I can give is that I didn’t care what happened. I let myself be in the moment and unafraid of consequences. I could have easily never been seen again. Women often put themselves in danger simply because we do not recognize our worth. Bad things did happen to me, but I was all too quick to blame myself. I made the choice, I deserved what happened. Until I found myself in the worst possible situation. I’m not ready to share the details, but for a few moments, I was sure it was going to be the end of me. It was the last time I ever made that kind of choice.
Nothing I do can change my choices. But when reflecting on them now, I can reach a new perspective, a perspective without judgment or blame. And I can release it, not hold on to it and let it drag me down. I’ve hurt myself almost as much as anyone else by making bad choices. I’ll never be able to go back to that moment in time and change my answer. I’ve got one life to live as me, and even though these choices have shattered me in many ways, I say: I am not broken. I am a million pieces of wonderful and sorrow and joy and courage.