Today I met an awesome group of young men. One of them, perhaps the most eloquent of the bunch, was leading the discussion titled: “Dreams”.
The guy’s name’s Frank. He’s also frank, a characteristic I find integral in possessing a wholly good personality. He led with the discussion with this thought-provoking question: “If you woke up tomorrow and discovered that the last ten years had been a dream, how would you feel?”
Elashe, a lanky young man with a strong grip and rigid frame, immediately replied, “Fam I’d be happy!”
This kicked my brain into gear as I started wondering why one would answer like that. Then it hit me just as someone began describing their reaction.
“I’d be really great. Honestly. There are a lot of dumb decisions I’ve made in my life that I’d never have to regret. I’d be wiping my slate completely clean. I would tell myself what I need to learn and what I need to avoid. I’d love people more and build good relationships while avoiding the bad ones.”
Makes sense right? We all make mistakes. We all make bad decisions in life and we all at one point have wished we could go back in time and undo some things we’ve done and still regret. Imagine stopping the habits that have been holding you back. Imagine having made greater plans for your life, picking the right subjects in school, reading the right books, learning an instrument at a younger age, a language etc. One could prevent a lot of heartbreak and even physical pain and in some cases, death but would we really be happy if we went back in time… should we?
All these things played around in my mind as we exchanged our thoughts on the issue, everyone with a compelling story, good reasoning as to why they would feel or react as they would. My turn came and I said something I’m even more convinced of now after having done some reflection.
“It totally makes sense to want to go back,” I said, “I’ve made some choices I wish I could take back. Poor decisions that have hurt me as well as the people I love. I do wish I could undo some things that I’ve done and do things better but at the same time all those mistakes I’ve made have contributed to the man I am today.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that as I am, I’m the most fantastic person on the planet. I’m not even the best version of myself – not yet. I think that guy is in my past as well as in my future. In my past when I was willing to obey, more naïve, innocent and excited about everything in life. In my future because at present I think I’m growing, relearning the good things I did in the past and trying to learn new things, better things right now.
If we were to wipe away the last ten years of our lives we’d be wiping away all the bad things, our mistakes etc… But we’d also be wiping away all the good things we’ve done. All of our successes and hard work would have culminated in nothing. Frank said earlier, and it still cranks me up, “I’d be devastated. All the gains that I worked so hard to obtain in the gym would be gone.”
Now look – life sometimes gives you lemons. You may not even like lemonade so I won’t force the rest of that saying upon. But we are who we are because of all the experiences we have had up to this point. The best way for us to continue to grow is to accept this and stop the “what ifs” or “I wish” type of thoughts. The worst thing about this hypothetical question is just that… it’s hypothetical. To make things worse even if it were possible… what is there to guarantee that we won’t make new mistakes; worse mistakes? There’s no way to know for sure.
So I’ll close with this. Maybe you weren’t dealt the best cards over the years. Maybe you didn’t make all the right decisions. Of everyone who has ever lived on this planet maybe only one never made an error. Accept all the dumb decisions you’ve made or the circumstances that befell you that you couldn’t avoid. Look forward to what’s ahead and let your aim be to make sure that your tomorrow is better than your yesterday.