“I want you to have choices, create opportunity for yourself in a way I never did. Like every parent, I want you to avoid the silly mistakes I made. I know you can’t see it now, and maybe you don’t even want to see it, but there will be a moment when you look at your life and see the things that dictated your future in a very clear light. You will see the absolute foolishness of your action, or inaction. You will taste it on your tongue and smell it in the air and you will say to yourself, the same way I say it to myself, I wish…and that wishing will bring the same sadness, the same regret, the same hopeless feeling as you imagine your life if you could only have seen and understood.”
He took a long drink from the tall glass of beer in front of him. A far away look glazed over his eyes and I knew he was in that place, the very thing he was trying to tell me, the thing I wasn’t ready to see or willing to understand.
And there it was, the moment, the time I was given the chance to make things different, the place I go back to when I look at my life and wish, like we all wish at some moment, maybe many moments, that we were different, that our present was somehow more like our past self imagined.
“But you’re forgetting something crucial.” She said. Her voice creeping out from under the blankets, between the folds, where memory is not distorted or viewed without context. “You cannot make any choice in a vacuum. Action or inaction, they are learning moments. Every bad choice teaches you humility, gives you perspective, just like every inaction allows you to act the next time. Imprisoning yourself, choosing to be disappointed with one moment, one decision, or any amount of choices, negates the wonderful place you find yourself. The people you know, the love you share, the wonders you have seen, they would all be different if you had not done and done. Different, not better. Imagine what you would miss, the things you would not know.”
I can’t help it. His voice is always louder, always more convincing. But there are moments when I sit in the silence of the house, drinking coffee or staring out at the approach of winter and all I can hear is her whispers, deep in my heart. In those moments, what I taste, what I smell is happiness. I cannot help but smile and be grateful.