The Trouble with Temporal Manipulation…

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 | Life

…in which I talk about the futility of regret.

Wow, so time has been really weird lately. Pretty much the entire month of January slipped by without me even noticing. A combination of rabid sickness, the start of the new semester, a new Pathfinder game, and Skyrim all piled up and devoured my time. Days and weeks raced by until it was all of a sudden February. Even yesterday kind of got lost as we finally got our UNT W-2 forms and were able to file our taxes. Things have been slowing down though, so maybe I’ll be able to get back into a normal time stream. Nevertheless, I digress from my intended topic of the day, a thought that occurs to me often, but most recently while mowing the lawn last weekend. I’m talking about regrets.

Christmas 2011

Everything has lead to this.

Now I will openly admit that I’ve made a lot of mistakes and bad choices in my past, and that there has been some negative fallout from some of those past actions. I’ve lost friends, I’ve destroyed relationships, I’ve changed lives, and several of the repercussions bring me pangs of guilt from time to time. Most often, I keep that stuff buried down in the box in my emotional basement labeled “the past is the past, you can’t fix it.” But every now and then, most often when I’m doing some time consuming, menial, physical chore, I dust off the box and dig around a little.

I’ve seen a lot of time travel based sci-fi movies in my time, so when I start thinking about how my life would be different if I had made different choices along the way, I typically reach the same conclusion. Despite how good or bad the path has been to this point, we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t traveled this exact route. So why is it, then, that we regret the things we’ve done? Why do we bemoan the trauma and terrors that befell our chaotic past if it all lead to a nice place? I often try to figure out if things would be better if I had done things differently. Would I have everything I have today, without losing the friendships that I lost along the way? It’s a gamble, a gamble that plenty of fictional characters have asked and are most often surprised to learn that you cannot, in fact, have your cake and eat it too.

“A funny thing about regret is, that it’s always better to regret something you have done, than to regret something you haven’t done.”

We are the culmination of all of our experiences, good bad and indifferent. I’m sure that my life would be different, somehow, had I not pissed myself at that mini-golf course back in elementary school. I would likely be in a completely different place if I hadn’t been involved in a “thrilling” car chase in high school. And if I hadn’t alienated myself to two of my best friends, several years back, I may not have the life I have today. And yet, with all of this rational understanding, I still can’t help but look at the past and wonder how I could have done things differently. My imagination is willing to gamble my happiness for the possibility of more. That’s the problem with us, we always want more.

“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

So I have come to the conclusion, over the years, that I even given the opportunity, I would not go back and undo the things that I have done. Rather, I would like to have the confidence to approach those that I have hurt and apologize. I’ve considered it several times in the past, trying to rebuild some bridges long since burned, but then I convince myself that those ties are broken and I’m content enough now that they need not be repaired. The easiest way for me to deal with it, mentally, is to consider that time as a different world, or even a different life. As if I didn’t necessarily live them, but I witnessed them in first person. I’ve learned the lessons from those experiences, and have grown up from that time, but I have written it off as some kind of lifetime archive.

So, despite my human nature to regret and reminisce, I know that I cannot, and should not ever go back and change things. Yes, there’s a remote possibility that things could get better, but I know that it’s just as likely, if not more so, that things would be worse. I have no singular Butterfly Effect moment that is a crucial turning point in my life, just a lifetime of choices and experiences that have all lead up to today. If Ansel is the sum of all of my experiences, than there is no possibility of gambling that away. Everything I have done, every choice I have made has resulted in a beautiful, wonderful, brilliant little boy who is simply oozing with love and personality (some people call it snot, I call it personality), and there’s no way I would ever put that at risk.

My life is good, and I am content with where I am. My mind will wander and speculate, but in the end, I’m always glad to be here. Thank you to everyone who loves me for who I am, and an extra special thanks to the people who hate me for how I got here. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t hurt you along the way.

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February 2012