Alternate Timelines of Regret
Is it harder to replace gaps in your future than gaps in your past?
My friend’s wife passed away from cancer recently. While I was expressing my condolences, I mentioned that I literally wouldn’t be able to understand what he’s going through, because, having never been married, I don’t know what it’s like to lose someone that you’ve intertwined with for that long, at that depth.
He’s in a stage of deep reflection about his life, and life in general, and everyone else’s life, which includes mine. So he gave me his thoughts on the regrets I have, such as the gaps in my life where maybe there should be a wife or kids.
In a way, his advice is predictable. There are truths that float around that can sound trite, except when said from someone living them. So it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that he said I shouldn’t hold on to regrets. Isn’t that the kind of thing everyone says? Isn’t that just fodder for vacuous inspirational quotes set against pictures of sunsets and posted on Instagram?
Still, hearing it from him, where he’s looking ahead at a lot of years without the person he thought would be joining him on yet more adventures, his words had the weight of context necessary to make me seriously consider them.
In a way, he’s been put in the position of regretting the life ahead of him. He has gaps in his future that seem as hard to fill as the gaps in my past. You don’t just replace the person at the core of the life and family you’ve built so far.
But we don’t talk about future regrets so much because there’s always the optimistic hope that they can be countered before you sink into them. Is it harder to course correct from the paths you missed, or to dodge the gaps you see coming?
It’s guess it’s not that you shouldn’t regret anything, but the ache they cause should be motivation to do something about their existence. Why am I wondering so much about the life I didn’t lead?
Like having kids. I could still have them, I know men older than me that have had kids, so that’s still an option, I suppose. But it seems that I only think of kids as this thing that happens in my future, which is part of what keeps me from considering them in the present.