Friday, April 30, 2010

A Bad Case Of The What-Ifs

As a rule, I generally try to live my live without regrets. The way I see it, if you can't change it, why waste your time regretting it, or wishing things had happened differently?

That's all well and good on a logical, intellectual level. But we're not strictly logical, intellectual creatures, we have these messy things called emotions that can be really great, but can also keep us from thinking about things 100% clearly.

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who I've known for a few years now, and we briefly discussed a night and conversation we'd had years ago, and what we'd been thinking, but hadn't said. I didn't even realize at the time that the nasty little bug had crept into my system. It wasn't until I'd hung up the phone and was getting ready for bed that the symptoms started to set in.

I was washing my face when the sneaky little voice whispered in my ear.

"What if?"

I tried to ignore it, grabbing my towel and patting my face dry.

"What if you'd gone alone?"

I shook my head, willing the wondering away, and settled into bed, my eyes firmly, and determinedly shut.

"What if you'd gotten what you wanted three years ago?"

"It doesn't matter, I got what I wanted now, didn't I?" I snapped back, finally unable to contain myself.

"But what if you'd gotten it three years ago?"

"Well I still got it, didn't I? Better late than never!"

"But what if..."

I rolled over angrily, pulling the covers higher, up to my ears. I wanted nothing more to do with this stupid voice. But I was arguing with myself now, and my mind was going to see the argument through, whether I wanted to or not.

The evil little words caressed my cheek sweetly as they whispered in my ear.

"What if it had been him instead?"

I pulled my pillow over my head at the thought. I didn't want to think about it. Because in the end, what could I do? I couldn't go back and change it, and I couldn't change any of the other things that had happened since. And even if I could have, I'm not so sure I'd want to. What would that mean for the rest of my personality? For the rest of my life? Everything is connected, and if one thing goes differently, who knows what would happen?

"What if it had been him, and not That Man? Would you have been hurt so much? Would you be happy now? Would That Man ever have even happened?"

The scariest "What If" of all.

"What if That Man never happened?"

But finally, one where I know where I stand. I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't risk the person I've grown into. I wouldn't risk things turning out any other way.

The question comes up a lot when we think about cloning: How much of us is shaped by our experiences? How much of it really is nature, and how much is nurture? Would the clone they created really be the person they were cloned from? Of course not. It would grow up differently, with different experiences, different stimuli. It would never be the same person.

If any of my "What Ifs" had happened, I wouldn't be the same person. I'd still be me, of course, but a different me. Maybe a better me, but maybe a worse me. Maybe giving up the pain would mean losing the progress. After all, don't they always say "No pain, no gain"? While I may not be happy with everything going on in my life right now, I am happy with the progress I've made as a person in the last few years of my life, and that's not something I would trade away for a shot at a "What If". Especially since I can't ever have it, anyway.

Do you have a "What If" you think about a lot? Do you wish you could go back and change so that things turned out differently? What do you do to shake a bad case of the "What Ifs"?


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