I've been thinking a bit lately about my life, and how things have gone so terribly, horribly wrong for me over the last several years.
It's bad enough that my life is in havoc, but this doesn't just impact me. My screw-ups have been affecting my wife's life and the lives of our children for a long, long time too. That's hard to swallow. It hurts a lot to realize that, not only am I not succeeding as a person -- in almost any capacity -- I’m not a very good husband, father or provider either. I’m not sure at what else I can fail, frankly.
A lot of mistakes that I made can be traced back to when I was in high school, and therein is where my introspection has fallen as of late. I realized that, had I subtly changed the course of the direction of my life, and avoided some of the horrific mistakes I made along the way, maybe I’d be somewhere different by now. Maybe not, but I find it very unlikely that I’d have ended up here, in the situations in which I find myself, had I made just a few different choices.
I don’t know what happened to my brain during the years that I spent in high school, but it certainly didn’t function the way it does now. I can look back at the decisions I made and even today I shake my head and mutter “what were you thinking, moron?” I have no idea. I don’t know if I did then, either. All I can do is try not to duplicate those mistakes as I go through what’s left of my life, but the fact is, I probably won’t have the chance to duplicate those mistakes. Many of them were one-time-only, chance-in-lifetime sorts of things, and I indeed blew those chances royally. Those that I could have avoided or changed later I just didn’t, so in some sense, I suppose I did make them all over again.
It’s a damned shame.
I can sum up the things I want to change into a handful of events that, while they didn’t seem like much to me, were cataclysmic, calamitous decisions that had long-term, life-altering impact. All of them took place in a span of just a couple of years, too; perhaps the two or three years from when I was about 16 years old until the age of 19. By then, the decisions had crippled my ability to recover from them, destroyed what flimsy and pathetic “support network” I had, and I am still paying for them today.
I’m not in this alone, however; my genetic donors could have done more to help, but being that they’re not the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree either, they couldn’t pull their heads from their rectal cavities long enough to see what was necessary. This, sadly, from people that are twenty and twenty-three years older than me. So, well into adulthood, they couldn’t find a clearer path to assist me than what they chose. Or, more likely, the desire to assist wasn’t really there to find another way.
At any rate, I can’t blame them. I have the pocketful of crumbled dreams and ashes of hope in my own hot little hand to attest to the wreckage I’ve brought upon myself. They were, after all, my mistakes, and mine alone. I have to deal with the consequences, not they; I have to try and find the alternate path, not them. This is my responsibility, my burden, my millstone to bear, and no one else’s. Except, of course, for my wife and children, who had nothing to do with any of this at all. They just get to bear the brunt.
If, however, I had zigged rather than zagged, had weaved instead of bobbed, in just a couple of situations I was in, I could be a completely different man. I’ve been down this road thousands of time before. I torment myself with wondering what life would be like if I had chosen differently just once, never mind in every one of those situations. I could have been, and done, so much more, I think.
On the other hand, there is the theory that we don’t actually have choices, only the illusion of choices. We can’t really make any other decision than the one that we made, and there IS no path not chosen, road not traveled, life not lived. There is only this life, this path, this road which is traveled, and no other. While at the time there seems to be a fork, there is in fact only undeniable, inexorable, inescapable fate, and we never had the chance to do other than what we did.
Theologically, I reject this idea out of hand and soundly. It’s ludicrous, because the entire basis for a relationship with God becomes a random, capricious, completely arbitrary selection process to which we will never be privy. Since the decision in the Garden of Eden, the choices have been there, and have played themselves out. While the idea of foreknowledge can confuse some, foreknowledge and predestination are separate and distinct ideas, if intertwined. I can go much more into detail on this, but I’ll allow that to suffice for the Internet. Want to know more? Go look it up. You are aware the Bible opens, aren’t you?
At any rate, Calvinism is not for me. Perseverance of the Saints, one of the five points of classical Calvinism, is about all I can stomach. The rest leads people to irresponsible and dangerous behavior that isn’t biblical.
Now then, where was I? Oh, yes; my misery.
I believe that, now, after all the years of thinking about it, reliving the years between ages 16 and 19 would right the capsizing ship. Of course, I can’t do that, but if I had a temporal displacement device, or if I could slipstream into the time-space continuum and speak with myself, that’s probably the time in which my efforts would be focused. It would be interesting to see if anything that I could say to myself then would have impact on me today. If I return from my conversations with my younger self and there is no change, does that mean that I’ve been ineffectual, that I chose the same routes despite being warned, or that there is no way to alter the past and affect the future?
Of course, the latter is true. There is nothing we can do to change the past and get the future back on track. This is what we have, and in that regard, the future -- or the present, I suppose -- is set. Like the time travel theory (if you want to call it that) in the movie 12 Monkeys, there is nothing we can do to stop the inevitable outcome of the choices of the past.
Which, of course, brings me to the future. As murky and uncertain, dark and foreboding as it is, it is the only timeline upon which I can affect any deviation. I can alter that timeline. I just wish, as I sit here and realize that the present has indeed crept into the future and the future has eroded into the present, I had some lantern, some dim candle, even a matchstick to light the inky blackness ahead of me. I just wish that, somewhere along the way, there was a method for piercing the veil that separates past and future, at least my own, such that I might see what it is I’m supposed to do and which road to choose. Even if there aren’t as many as there were once upon a time, the choices are far more frightening. Fewer choices equates to more dramatic mistakes, and less time to recover from them. If I haven’t recovered from those that I made a quarter of a century ago, and if I may not have a quarter of a century left to live, what chance will I have to correct the listing, sinking ship in that shallow, turbulent, violent sea of the future?
No, there is no way to see ahead. We can only guess, and do our best.
P.S. - Don’t even get me started on psychics. Have you ever seen the headline “Psychic Wins Lottery”? I haven’t either; case closed.