I recently sold my house and was beating myself up for stupid decision-making because while it was a good time to sell (my market was a 99 out of 100 according to Redfin and my house still only got one offer the first weekend), it wasn’t a good time for me to buy. Which means depriving my elderly dog of her own yard because not many houses like to rent to 125-pound dogs.
That of course led to the “what have I done with the last decade of my life” death spiral. I could’ve made millions if I’d just stayed with that job I really didn’t like.
And I was especially beating myself up because I did like the work itself when I was on good projects (give me a ton of information to analyze and absorb and then let me tell people how to fix their shit and I’m in my happy place), it was more the lifestyle and who I was becoming in that job that I didn’t like.
Fortunately, I don’t stay in those death spirals for long. I seem to have this automatic defense mechanism that kicks in and points out all the reasons I shouldn’t be down, depressed, and upset.
Like how I was able to live in New Zealand for the better part of two years and learn how to skydive and get to have a dog in the first place. Not to mention the fact that I’ve spent a good chunk of the last seven years in a very emotionally peaceful place writing whatever I wanted to write which has included 14 novels and way too much non-fiction.
And realizing that even though I quit my job way too soon to start writing full-time that I am still somehow better off right now financially seven years later than when I first made that choice. (Not as good as I would’ve been on that other path, mind you…)
Even though that other path would’ve been the more financially successful path, it wasn’t the more emotionally successful path to take. And that’s the lesson I have to keep learning for myself over and over and over.
There are a million paths you can take through life. Some lead to more money, some lead to more adventure, some lead to more love, or more fame, or more “success”. But none of those paths is the “right” path. The one true path. There is no one true path.
Because we’re always balancing a series of competing priorities. I want to have enough money to live comfortably and buy what I need when I need it. And enough to splurge on things at times. I want to have time to spend with my dog and my friends and my family. I want to travel. I want to be healthy. I want to be safe. I want to be stable enough in my own life to have grace when dealing with others.
But sometimes to have A you sacrifice B. I love my dog and I know she likes having me around, so I don’t travel right now. Those trips to Ireland and Malta and Argentina and wherever else strikes my fancy have to wait.
And because I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know where I’ll be health-wise when she’s gone. I don’t know where the world will be. Maybe I will never get to see Argentina for one reason or another. I went to Guatemala years ago and loved it, but four years later there were consular advisories about people being robbed on their way from the airport to the main city which would’ve kept me from going. You just never know.
And you can think you’ve made all the right decisions and that you’re on the perfect path and then life can come along and upend everything. It’s a very rare person who gets through their entire life thinking they’ve made the perfect choices. (Or a very self unaware person.)
So if you think you’ve made mistakes and everything is shit and you’ve done it all wrong, take a deep breath. It’s okay. Change what you can. Keep moving forward and find that new path. Learn from what you did. Accept that sometimes you can’t have it all and value what you do have.
And if you’re not happy with where you are, try to bring more of what you wish you had into your life. It may not work, but it may take you someplace you never even thought was possible that’s even better. You never know.