Because I have seen a lot of this in my family, I think that I could have easily fallen into it as well and, actually, I sit here today feeling like I have lapsed into it a bit recently. I really need to snap out of that feeling and I hope that this post will help me to explore those thoughts and change them.
I have to credit my wonderful girlfriend for, many years ago, setting me on a path where I try my best to live without regrets. She pointed out to me that the past is just that – past. There is no going back and changing it. The present is our current reality with which we must deal and the future is what we must seek. Both of those, of course, with God’s help.
And generally I do a decent job of not looking back and having regrets about the past. Not that I don’t want to learn from the past but rather that there simply is no point nor value in living under the constant gray cloud of regret. I have a friend who sometimes lapses into regret and I always know when it’s happening because he gets very quiet. I can tell that regrets are bothering him.
Recently, though, I have been having some things haunt me. Maybe not really “regrets” per se but more just thoughts of “how would things be different if …” And that is a rather damning and self-fulfilling line of thought. If you think about the past and try to play out how things would have progressed had you done something differently, you’re really trying to decipher an impossibility. Not a one of us can predict past events that never happened but yet folks who live with regrets are attempting to do exactly that.
So, what has been haunting me? A decision I made when I was 19 years old. I started my freshman year of college as a Pre-Med major. Actually, the small college I went to didn’t really have a Pre-Med major but they would sort of create one for you if that was what you wanted. During winter term of my freshman year, part of that had me taking Calculus I and Chemistry. I had a tough Econ class in there as an elective, too. I was doing okay in Calc and Chemistry and actually was part of an “advanced group” in both classes. But I really had to work hard at them. I was staying up late studying and getting up early in the morning. It wasn’t that I regretted not being involved with the “partying” that some students would fill their evenings with at the only bar in town. I didn't mind the studying nor the subject matter. Rather, though, it was that I was just getting tired of working so hard. I knew that some of the others in the same classes were not having to work as hard as I was yet we were all getting A's. (One of those guys who was a friend of mine went straight through in math to get his doctorate and now he’s a professor and an expert in String Theory if that helps give you any idea of what I was up against.)
So, at the end of winter term, I made a decision. I dropped Pre-Med and picked up Communications as my major. Honestly, I didn’t even know what Communications meant (I often joke that it prepared me for basically nothing) but I knew that it involved a lot of classes which I could sail through pretty easily. And that is exactly what I did. Gone were the extraordinarily late nights and early mornings of study. Gone was the specter of dealing with numbers and abstract ideas. Instead, I could write. I could read. I could go to plays and review them. I could study journalism and contemporary media. I became friends with my profs and graduated something like third in my class with a 3.93 GPA.
Don’t laugh but I was watching Gray’s Anatomy the other evening, using television to drown my frustrations of the day, and I really started to wonder what it would have been like if I had stayed with Pre-Med. How would my life be different today?
Unfortunately, back at that point in my life, I wasn’t doing a lot of seeking God as I chose a major and a career. Even at the small Christian college I attended, seeking God’s direction for your career just didn’t seem to get a lot of play back then. It’s a pity really. And I certainly can’t sit here today and think that God’s calling on my life at that time was for me to be a doctor. But, still, I have been mulling over in my mind how things would have been different. Could I have done more at serving and helping others? Could I have created a better life for my family? Could I have felt better that I was having an impact and doing God’s work?
I don’t know … and I never will know. As Lisa says, “the past is past” so I need to snap out of this. I may not have purposefully sought God’s direction when I was 19 but I can now. What I do today makes all the difference -- not the decision I made many years ago.