I suppose it could be argued that regret is sort of the opposite of gratitude. I understand that this is not precisely true from a lexical or grammatical stand point, but it carries a certain amount of weight for me. After all, reflecting on what might have been prevents you from appreciating what is and what has been. If we look back on every ill-considered decision and view it as an utter failure on our part, or worse, the reason for unhappiness now, we cannot learn to find our joy. More than that though, I think it is important to view our past mistakes as potential gifts.
Because we would not be who we are without them. For every positive outcome I can think of for a hypothetical better decision I can probably think of a negative outcome as well. Had I not been such an underachiever in high school I probably would have received all sorts of scholarships, maybe even a free ride. Then again, I would have probably pursued a career in engineering. Leaving aside the high stress, competitive nature of that path, I just cannot see myself being fulfilled in that kind of work. Maybe I would have been, but I know I have been able to explore all manner of possibilities because I was not pigeon-holed right out of high school.
Had I kept my mouth shut about my sexuality after joining the Army twenty years ago I may have had a long, respectable career in the military. They appreciated my talents and had plans for me. This was before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell though and the recruiter more or less encouraged me to lie. I could have kept on lying, and maybe gotten away with it. I may have been able to retire two years ago with a decent pension. Then again, I may have been caught out and sent to prison. Even if I wasn’t I would have been part of a system I have learned is destructive to the fabric of our society.
I can come up with so many example like this, but ultimately it boils down to what is my life today? Had I made even one decision different, I would not have the friends I expressed so much love for on Day 2. I would not be chasing my bliss sharing my words here and in my books. I would not have the opportunity to fight for a world that is kinder and safer for us all. So much of what is me, the bad and the good, would not be, and frankly, though things still don’t always work out the way I like, I am happy with my life.
So thank you past me, for screwing up so much. It may have hurt at the time. I may occasionally wish I could undo the hurt to myself, and always wish I could undo the hurt to others. Without your gaffes though, we wouldn’t be where we are, which is a pretty OK place, and while I shall endeavor not to screw up any more, I am interested to see where my (inevitable) future mistakes take me.
- The Power of Gratitude (artofconcentration.wordpress.com)
- Happiness and the Benefits of Gratitude (ministryofhappiness.wordpress.com)
- Reflections…………………………………………Gratitude (dgcoker.com)
- Teaching Kids About Gratitude and Service (welcometofamilylife.com)