Life is about compromise. I’m not talking about compromise as in giving up your dreams; or settling for less; or lowering your standards. Life is a compromise in the sense that in order to get what you want, some other things must be let go. Maybe you didn’t get into your first choice college, or get your perfect job on the first try, or find the man of your dreams. Often what we think is second best may be the best thing that ever happened to us.

We learn from experience, and some experiences are terrible as we live through them. But we emerge stronger on the other side. I liken it to crawling through a cold, dark tunnel with no light shining through. As I’m crawling through the mind-numbing darkness, a pinpoint of light appears. It encourages me to keep going. Gradually the pinpoint grows bigger, and bigger, until I emerge into the sunlight. After being in the dark for so long, I am blinded at first. But soon I am reveling in the light and warmth.

This is how I see bad times in my life. I have made compromises; I have had to give up some things to get where I wanted to go. I gave up a marriage to finish my education; I gave up a lucrative job to save my soul; I gave up toxic people in my life to save my sanity. This is what I mean by compromise. In none of these cases did I give up my dream, settle for less, or lower my standards.

The art of compromise involves walking a fine line. Sometimes we have to think about the decision; other times it’s a matter of doing what we think is right. What’s the worst that can happen if I give up x to pursue y? What if I forego y and stay with x? Sometimes, I have to follow my intuition, my instinct, and it hasn’t failed me. The biggest problem I have is with what ifs – what if I had stayed where I was? Would I be better off? If I had stayed in a dead marriage instead of leaving and following my dream, would I be where I am now? But what ifs are counter-productive; they serve no purpose. Where I am is a good place. I won’t stay here forever, but for now, this is where I am, and I can only go forward from here; I refuse to go backwards.

The path not taken

Do you ever wonder what would have happened if you had made different choices in your life? I do. I think about what would have happened if I had married my first love; if I had not married the man I married; if I had turned left instead of right the night I got lost; who I would have met if I hadn’t taken that job where I met my current partner. It’s sometimes fun to think about or imagine what my life would have been like if I had made different choices.

I’m not unhappy with my life now, I just have a vivid and active imagination and enjoy thinking about different scenarios of what might have happened. I also think about what might have happened if my parents hadn’t moved around so much when I was growing up; if my ex and I hadn’t moved so much when my kids were growing up. Would I still be living in the town where I was raised? Would I have met and married someone else? Would I have kids? Grandkids? Who would they be instead of the kids and grandkids I have now?

I also think about the effects my choices have had on others as well as on me. If I hadn’t been paying attention when the driver in front of me braked for no reason; if I hadn’t been at the park the day the dog was lost; if I hadn’t seen the guy hitting his kid at the mall; what would have happened? I may never know what effect my choices have had; but I’m glad I’m where I am; that I have the friends I have; the family I have; the job I have; the life I have now.

Life is good.