Be Careful What You Wish For

What would you change if you knew how your life would unfold?

Would you eat healthier? Exercise more? Would you take better care of your teeth? Maybe you would get up the nerve to ask out the cute guy in your French class. Or maybe you would wisely say “no” when the cute guy at the gym asked you. I definitely wish five year-old me would have known how much adult me would love taking naps. Children do not appreciate the delicious respite a nap provides.


If you knew that you would experience sadness or loss, would you wish to escape them? If you knew you would suffer hardship or heartbreak, would you wish that away?  If you knew ahead of time what your life would be right now, would you wish for anything else?

Every now and then I wonder what else in my life would have been good to know ahead of time, besides the nap thing. My Mom always says, “Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it.” So if I wished that I had known things ahead of time, would I use that knowledge to change the course of my life? And if my life turned out differently, would I be happy with the result?

If I had known ahead of time that any particular person would hurt or betray me or break my heart, would I have avoided a relationship with them? Or is it  better, as they say, to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all?  Even in relationships that did not work out well, I learned which kind of people I can trust to call friend – and which kind I cannot. I’ve learned what traits I do  – and do not – want in a husband and partner. I have seen good and bad examples of how to be a leader, a mentor, a parent, a friend, a spouse…

If I had known that I would leave a fifteen-year career for something completely different, I probably would have thought “what a waste” and chosen a different path. But at that time in my life, would I have known which path to choose instead? If I hadn’t spent fifteen years in that career, would I have met my husband?

If I had known before the wedding that my husband snored like a suffocating walrus, I may have thought twice about saying yes. Staying single would have meant I’d get more sleep. But would it have been a better choice overall?

If I had been told ahead of time how challenging pregnancy would be or how traumatic our daughter’s birth would be, I would never have gotten pregnant. But then we wouldn’t have our daughter and our lives would be very different indeed.

If someone had told me how impossibly hard it would be to go back to college full time and work full time, or go to grad school at the same time I held down a full time career and handled life as a wife and new mother, I probably would never have started either of those degree programs. But then I wouldn’t have the knowledge base I do now and I wouldn’t have experienced the feelings of pride and accomplishment for all my hard work.




And if, based on the knowledge that I would eventually leave my teaching career, I may have opted for a different graduate degree. But I have said dozens of times that even though I am no longer a classroom teacher, every minute of my graduate course work has been useful in parenting my own child. So was that education degree wasted? Definitely not.

If I knew ahead of time that I’d sit in traffic for 30 minutes on a Friday afternoon, I could have taken a different route. But then maybe I would not have seen that sunset.




As I think back over my life I realize there is really nothing I would change. Have I made mistakes in life? Are there things along the way that perhaps might have been better avoided? Things I wish hadn’t been so painful? Absolutely. But I don’t wish them away. Having advance knowledge of people or circumstances could have been helpful, I suppose, but then my life wouldn’t be what it has been – a beautiful, challenging, frustrating, glorious ride.

I believe firmly that every choice we make in life, every word and action, leads us to precisely where and who we are at this moment. If any part had gone differently, the reality of right now would simply not exist.

And so I do not live my life with regret. Regret does not alter the course of my life. I choose to embrace the past – all of it – as part of my present.