the danger of “if”


You hear it every day, all day. If, if, if. If I was only rich. If I was only beautiful. If I was only younger. Cher had one of her biggest hits with If I could turn back time. It is unfortunate how many people are so fundamentally unhappy that they have a little gremlin whispering “what if” or “if only” in their ear.

Many people truly live a hard life. It could be refreshing to think of an alternative situation in which their unhappiness could be cured. I’m guilty of it as well. Unlike most, however, I don’t wish for a bag of gold. It would be nice, money is a big part of life. But it won’t make me happy. I will only find true happiness when I am comfortable in my own skin.

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I often say to myself, if I could only go back. To high school, for example, and apply some of what I know now that I could have used then. From making friends to learning to pick up cues that a pretty girl is into me (as opposed to finding out 30 years later on FB). Or to my first job interview to answer a critical question better. The examples are endless and all seem to point to regret. This is paradoxical for me because I generally don’t dwell on regret. I thought about this very intently and this is what I came up with. I don’t have general regrets, but instead, I have “period” regrets in which some “what if’s” come to mind at different phases of my life. In other words, if I was to dwell on the “if I was younger” narrative, the regrets would be different for each phase, decades for the sake of conversation, of my life.

In my twenties, I would have wished I was younger because I found out that for all of the years that I wished to be an adult and away from the “stifling rule” of my parents, being an adult sucks. Other than being able to drink legally, it’s all “have to” and very little “want to”.

In my thirties, I would have wished to be younger because I spent most of my twenties aimless and shitfaced. Reeling from a couple of bad relationships, working nights in a restaurant, trying to set a record for sleeping with waitresses. I was largely drunk, absent of goals and living day to day. I would like a lot of those days back.

In my forties, I would have wished to be younger because I didn’t do enough catch-up in my thirties. I would remain 8-10 years behind in my career, my 401k, my savings and my resume as an adult.I tried for years to pretend those years didn’t happen but they did.

Now, in my fifties, my “if I was younger” would be to relive and undo. Relive the moments of wonder when the children were young. I loved being a dad so much, although I will go to my grave fearing that I didn’t show it enough at the time. The sleepless nights, diapers and ear infections were so minor compared to the belly laughs at story time, the endless ploys to avoid going to bed, wrestling in the yard and jumping in leaves. The smiles from ear to ear as they discovered beautiful new things that are old hat to me but left them in wonder. The “just because” hugs and the “Hey Dad can I talk to you” are all things that I miss terribly. I fear that I didn’t get enough out of them and sadly, I worry that I didn’t say “I love you” enough.

I wish, but I can’t, undo being sick. To undo those times I was short-tempered when my blood pressure was out of control and my life was crashing around me. To undo the terrible fights with my wife that we stupidly had in front of the kids. To undo the disappointed looks on their faces when I was too sick to get off the sofa, or too busy to stop and make a memory.

There are too many “if’s to discuss in this one post. Maybe I will write a series of blogs about it (feedback welcome). The key message is that I don’t have the luxury of “if’s”, I don’t get to redo and I don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression. Those moments are past but not gone. They are now part of me, at this moment in time, and can’t be changed. Knowing they happened may serve me in the future in the form of wisdom, should a similar situation arise. But it is up to me to live the life that I have, not the one I could have had. My regrets have made me a better, kinder and humble person. I know who I am and I can look the man in the mirror in the eye. I only have one skin and I am almost comfortable in it.

My mistakes and regrets have served me. I have some great stories to tell and I am even considered wise by some. My life has changed greatly of late, but I’m adapting. I feel like I know things that elude others, like I have a secret. It’s really no secret. I want to live a life of fulfillment, no matter how many years I have left. And in my sixties, may I look back and be more comfortable with what I did in the ten years before.

12 thoughts on “the danger of “if””

  1. I recently had the opportunity, when preparing my last blog, to look back at each decade of my life, as well. Oh, yes, I have regrets. I recognize them for what they are; I didn’t know then what I know now. Had I, I would have changed some things. People say all the time that they wouldn’t go back if they could, and I suppose they mean it, but if I could I surely would. Why not?

    But I can’t. If is a dream. A fun way to think about things, but fruitless in reality.

    Starting some years ago I began to think about the now as if I were looking at it from the future. Today is the only day we can choose our ifs. I can’t choose tomorrow’s ifs until tomorrow comes and I can never re-choose yesterday, so today is all I have. I may regret the action I choose next but I’ll regret it more tomorrow having not chosen at all.

    Or something like that.

    Another fine installment, Superman. I think I would have regretted it if I hadn’t discovered your works. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I suppose you could write a whole series of “if” blog posts. There’s certainly a lot of different ways you could spin the word alone, or pairing it with another short word. Like “As-IF,” for instance. I find that when I want to see something in my future, I do an “As-IF, and try it on prior to actually getting there. It certainly makes the journey more fun.

    Or…what about “What-IF?” Some people get stuck in a certain spot, and can’t seem to shake free. “What-If” they didn’t? “What -IF they could?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ah, but here is where your most awesomest, newest friend grace comes into play…. GET a webcam or learn how to use the one on your phone…let your kids teach you… I PROMISE many laughs with your personality. and prolly many “oh dad’s followed by smh from your kids. You are smart enough to know that you wouldn’t go back if you could, because you wouldn’t have learned the things you have today. Continue being honest, and sharing your experiences and you will continue to make the world a better place

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gosh, you’re good. Your writing reads with such an ease of flow, it’s incredible. Hats off honestly. Besides, you’re always addressing crucial issues.
    As for wishes, I wish you the same. No more tears and no more regrets. I wish you love and joy. I wish you more time with your kids. Speaking of which, where do they live? Why don’t you spend more time together and what’s preventing them from expressing your emotions more often? Trust me, it’s never too late.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. my family separated when I was hospitalized in July. My wife lives with a friend with our two youngest. My two oldest are with their grandmother. I’m with my mother and we’re about 100 miles apart. It’s hard getting together, Maybe once every week or two. It’s difficult. Thank you so much for your kind words

      Liked by 2 people

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