"What if?" Is one of the phrases I fear the most and I love the most. I don't want to live my life wondering "what if?", but I do want to dream "what if". I can live with "what is", "what can be", and "what could be", but not a past "what if?"
On The Road
I was sitting at San Francisco International Airport the other day and saw a guy walk by me. The airport was packed, so I had walked by 100’s of people during my layover, but this one guy caught my eye.
He was about 30-35 years old, dressed like he was about to go on vacation to Hawaii and had tattoos all over his face and neck. That doesn’t bother me. I have a lot of friends with tattoos and it’s their art, but this guy just looked “hard” and I can’t explain it any better than that.
I was wondering when I saw him, how many times he had been hurt, put down, threatened, etc. Mind you, I know exactly NOTHING about this guy so most of this is being constructed in my head, but the premise still remains, so stay with me. 🙂 I started wondering “what if” things had been different in his life? Could he have been a different person. Then I started thinking, “what if” things were different for me. Could I have been a different person?
Again, I want to emphasize that I know nothing about this guy, so his appearance just started me thinking about the choices we make and how they affect who we become, so focus less on me “judging a book by its cover” and more about the premise. 🙂
The Past, Is The Past
I know so many people in life who carry the burdens of the past on their shoulders and it shows on their face. The sad thing about “burden” is that sometimes it’s not impossible to see someone else’s. Not only that, but it can’t be felt by anyone but the person who carries it.
It’s so much easier said than done when someone says “let go of the past”. I get it, but they’re right. The past is your permanent record. It’s the record book of your life. I guess the most important thing to take away from this scary fact, is that it’s important to make the right decision NOW, so that when you reflect on your permanent record, it’s something you’re proud of.
The only problem is that truthfully, the past is often something that haunts us. We can’t let it go because it’s permanent. It’s filled with mistakes, lies, bad decisions, and probably truths that you’d rather not ever think about.
That’s not to say that it’s also filled to the the brim with fond memories and love. But even for a “glass half full” type of guy like me, it’s hard not to focus on some of the not so proud moments in our lives.
I’ve tried to live my life to the fullest. I don’t think anyone would accuse me of living a “dull life”. But that does mean I’m not running from the truth like everyone else. My past haunts me too.
My Past is filled with failures. I like to think that it’s also packed with successes, but I tend to focus more on my failures. I’m actually ok with that.
You know that phrase that “you don’t learn from success, but you learn from failure”? I’m living, breathing proof of that.
My past as a husband isn’t a great one. I failed at what could be my ONE true chance at love. I’m not saying that I won’t have another opportunity. I hope I do. But there’s always the possibility that I missed the boat on that one.
Did I choose the wrong person? What if I had chosen the girl I dated before my ex? Or maybe the next person I had a connection with after her? Who knows . . . But I do know that I got the most perfect little girl out of my marriage, and that’s more than enough.
I’ve failed as an entrepreneur. I don’t think there are many of us who could say they haven’t. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult to say . . . or type for that matter. What if I had chosen different people to work for me? What if I had been smarter, sharper, or more focused?
My past is my legacy, and thinking of it that way, allows me to make better decisions in the future and take some of my life’s decisions more seriously.
Life of full of thousands of decisions a day. In my previous blog “Time“, I talked about all of life’s decisions culminating in the life I have now. Had I not made those, I wouldn’t be who I am today. And I’m pretty proud of who I am and who I’ve become.
It’s taken 42 years (almost 43) to be able to say that, but I am proud of the sum of my life’s decisions. No more “what if’s” for me.
This may not be the case for everyone. Some of you reading this right now may be in a place in your life where you’re doubting some of the decisions that have landed you where you are now. I can’t speak to each individual decision, but I’ll say to you, that I believe you’re right where you are supposed to be. You’re alive and have the ability to make future decisions to better your life’s position. With that being said, move forward and become who you’re supposed to be.
I know that sounds very prophetic, but I believe that the sum of your past decisions, is who you will become and are meant to be.
Everyone’s life is a timeline starting at birth and ending at death. We’re all on our own timelines and we’re never certain when it’s going to end. One thing is for sure . . . If you’re reading this, your timeline is still moving forward. That means you have time to make decisions that betters your timeline.
All of our timelines are crossing over each other’s. That’s the best part of humanity. We’re not alone. We’re all interconnected and affect each other. Maybe something I write in this blog affects your timeline (hopefully in a positive way). Nothing is permanent and your story has yet to be written.
The Next Chapter
I’ve often referred to parts of your life as chapters. As one ends, one begins. There’s countless chapters sitting on the history shelves of your life, and the ones unwritten are the most important ones.
You have the chance TODAY to continue the chapters of your story in a good way. You can forgive and move on and you can stop looking at your past by saying “what if” and change those to “what is”. It’s a very powerful thing to remember and remind yourself that you’re in total control of YOU. You certainly can’t control others and their actions, but you can definitely control yours.
Keeping this in mind helps me deal with others. It helps me realize that I can’t change someone being mean to me or trying to sabotage my life. I can only deal with the effect it has on me and how I react.
Your past includes everything from your birth to this moment, and your future from this moment on. Believe it or not, I think your future is more exciting. It’s full of “future what ifs” that are yours to control. That’s a powerful statement.
One such example of this was the recent comment on my blog. I could have been hurt about it, but instead I shook it off as a little bit of cyber-bullying. I used it as a teaching example for Kailyn, and reminded myself of how sad that person’s life must be. EVEN if they thought they new me, they certainly do not, else they wouldn’t have ever written such hurtful words.
There are toxic people in this world that you should stay clear of. People who don’t have your best intentions at heart. You may know these people as your “friends”, but subconsciously you know they’re not in it for you. I had to shed those people and surround myself with those to want to see me succeed and thrive. That’s the first step in “cleaning house”. It’s hard because some of these people look and act like friends. But make no mistake. They are not.
Be Less To More, And More To Few
This is my new mantra. If you’ve interacted with me these past 6 years, you know I’m living it. I spend more time with people who I care about, and less time with those to just want to be “around”. I feel 1000x more fulfilled.
It’s hard for someone like me, who wants to be friends with everyone. It’s not that I can’t be friends with a lot of people (those who know me would say I have more friends than most), but there are those who have built me up and made me a better man. THOSE are the ones I want to celebrate, love, and keep close to my head. They’re the ones who truly matter in my life.
For a lot of people it’s how many Facebook friends you have, or how many Instagram followers/likes you can collect, or even how many people come to your parties. But I’d challenge you to change your metric.
How many people will call you when you’re depressed?
How many people will hug you and tell you how much they love you when you’re hurt. Will they build you up, or tear you down?
Sometimes these “friends” are wolves in sheep’s clothing. It’s the ones who are closest, that have access to your deepest thoughts. Just make sure they’re the “right” friends. I had to do some soul searching to find this out.
Speaking about my ex-best friend, a good friend of mine named John gave me the best perspective on this topic. He said, “It was easy for him to attack you in your blind spot, because it was that blind spot he was supposed to be protecting you from”. Just make sure that you have “blind spot protectors” and not “blind spot takers”.
Finding those who will nurture your best efforts personally and profession are the ones who should be in your “inner circle”. That’s the true metric of success and love. And I challenge you to dispute this.
I wanted to say thank you to those of you in my life who have been there for me. You know who you are, and I appreciate you.
The biggest “what if” in my life, is “What if I wasn’t adopted”. I think that this is an exception to what I’ve been talking about, but is also an important one for me to point out. There are definitely “what ifs” that you have no control over. There’s no doubt that my life would be EXPONENTIALLY different had I not been adopted to the US, or even to my family.
That’s why I don’t think about “what if”. This isn’t a “what if” to me. It’s a “what is”. I see a lot of people day dreaming about “what could be”, when they have no ability to change “what is”.
I have friends right now who are in some bad situations. You know who you are, and if you think I’m talking about you, then I probably am. 🙂
Many times I tend to hold onto what’s familiar because I’m afraid of change. Literally afraid. Change is so scary because it’s an unknown and I tend to cling to what I know. But in my personal life, and in my past marriage, things had change from “what if things get better”, to “things are not going to get better”. Do you see how things went from “what could be” to “what actually is”? Had I been able to recognize this in my marriage, I would have moved on. It wouldn’t have been easy, but there were clear signs coming from my ex-wife that things had changed.
The majority of healing I’ve been doing these past 6 years, is sorting through all of the emotional data in my head. Trying to figure out why I feel the way I do, what caused me to act the way I did, and trying to figure out why others chose the paths they did. Of those three things, I’m only able to affect the first 2 of them. The third only helps me be empathetic, and helps me try to understand why they did what they did.
Everyone is on the path to try and get to happiness. Somewhere along the line, some of us get derailed and forget that’s the end game. Sometimes we throw in the towel and think that we’ve “given it our best”. That’s a hard pill to swallow.
I want to emphasize that I’m not advocating people stop thinking “what if”. It’s powerful to dream. I’m simply say that a forward thinking “what if” is much different than a past thinking “what if”.
I hope that point is clear.
This is my 20th blog I’ll be posting, and I’ve now officially reached over 6,000 reads. It’s incredible that people have taken the time out of their lives to read, and I’m thankful for all of the comments, texts, and messages I’ve received.
I’d be lying if I said that writing these wasn’t therapeutic for me and that selfishly, they were helping me heal. I just enjoy sharing parts of my life with you, and I like having a record of my thoughts, feelings, and life-lessons on permanent file for Kailyn to see someday.
But I did want to acknowledge all of the readers so far, and say the most sincerest Thank You. At the very least, I hope my words remind you you’re not alone in your struggles and that we’re all messed up in our own ways. In a world, at a time when things seem like they’re hopeless, I promise you they’re not.
I know a lot of my friends are going through “what if” moments in their life right now. Hang in there. I promise that life has a way of working itself out. If I could give them any advice, it’d be to DREAM BIG “what ifs”, and walk away from past “what ifs”.
As always, thanks for reading. Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
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