We all know someone who is backwards focused, always looking into the past and presuming how their life (or yours) would have been vastly different…if only. If only they had married Bob instead of Bill. If only they had finished that degree. If only they had selected a different career path. If only…
A few days ago I was chatting with someone who knew me when I was in college. “You should have just gone into journalism,” she said. “You write for a living anyway.” Perhaps it was a harmless observation, but knowing my friend, I knew she thought I could have “done better” with my life. This is, by the way, the same friend who once asked me why anyone would bother to write a book if it wasn’t going to be a bestseller.
When I studied journalism 25 years ago, the word “blog” hadn’t even been coined. As I learned the fundamentals of newspaper reporting, I became keenly aware that I had little interest in journalism as a career path. I loved research and the art of crafting a good story. I did not love the ins and outs of the newspaper business. So I changed majors.
Like 49% of American college graduates, I don’t even work in my field of study (which ended up being business, by the way). I do write for a living. I write grants for non-profits. I also write in my journal and on this blog, and sometimes I even write short stories – despite the fact that they will never be bestsellers :-). I didn’t need to become a journalist to write. I didn’t need to become anything. I was already a writer from the moment I picked up a pen and told myself I was.
Backwards focused people nearly always think the grass is greener on the path not taken. Though a million thoughts crossed my mind that day, I knew it was an unwinnable argument so I opted to steer my friend to a different topic. She will always see my life as one of missed opportunities. But I’m not so certain that I’m the one who missed out.
Kim Pratt, LCSW writes in her article Living in the Present Moment = More Happiness? –
Everybody knows how sweet it is to savor life’s simplest moments when we pause to take it all in: watching the sunset; taking a walk with a friend; or having a hot cup of tea on a winter’s day. Far too often, however, we’re pulled away from the present to fixate on the past, or worry about the future. When this happens, we’re not able to fully experience the richness, and subsequent happiness, that is often right under our noses.
In my daily life, I try to remember to be mindful. I can’t do that by dwelling in the past. No choice that could have been made in the past will ever compare to the one that can be made right now; to be present and grateful for this very moment.