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I often find myself imagining that in an alternate universe exists a version of me that made better decisions, decisions that molded a better being than I am, a being I perhaps wish I was. I often imagine that that me is happier, freer and more content with himself, with life. I often find myself stuck between accepting who I am right now and wishing I were that person, between making the most of what I’ve got and wishing that everything were different for me, between striving to be the best me I could possibly be and wishing that I were someone totally different.

In all fairness, we do not really get a preview. We can never really foresee what the consequences of our choices will pan out to be until we are living in them, until they are staring us right in the eye. No matter how educated you reckon your decisions to be, the chances that they could go horribly wrong are still fairly large because what is ever certain in this life? What more does “an educated decision” do save comfort the maker of it a while? Just how great a privilege is hindsight then? Is it not easy to say, “Damn, I really shouldn’t have done that” when it’s all said and done? Do all the “could-haves, should-haves and would-haves” not spew out of our lips much easier when we are on the other side of the bridge? “Why are you so hard on yourself then?” I have recently started to ask myself, “Why do you insist on using hindsight in this manner: as a rod to beat yourself down, as opposed to a navigation tool?”

The happiest people in this life, I am only learning now, are those who have accepted this truth: that out of an unconsenting ignorance, we will make horrid, regrettable decisions. We will make life-altering decisions that will throw us off the paths we so gleefully wish to tread, decisions that will yank the very ground into which we had firmly planted our feet and leave us spiraling in space. Lost. Afraid. Confused. We will make… inexplicably horrible decisions. Of course we will. We are bound to do so because there isn't a guide to this life thing. We are, in the most literal sense of the word, learning on the job.

And the truth is that we will often get it wrong, that because life is not learned, but instead lived, we will more often than not have to get it wrong before we get it right. Things must blow up in your face, leaving you with pieces with which you are to build something of yourself all over again. Everybody who ever built meaningful lives started with the debris of their initial dreams, the tattered remains of the lives they thought up in their minds. That is living: to make decisions that shatter everything you have ever known and learning to rebuild with whatever is left of it. But many of us, including myself, crumble with the wreckage. We pile up our mistakes and bury ourselves beneath them as though there were no life beyond that, as though it were the end. Yet you… I am way more than the sum total of my mistakes. My mistakes do not define me.

The point is you ought to learn to forgive yourself for the decisions you made when you did not know any better. You must forgive yourself for the mistakes that threw you into paths you did not want to walk, paths you do not feel equipped to navigate; for the decisions you made when you did not have the stack of knowledge you do now, when you did not know how the world worked. How could you have possibly known? Do you reckon you should have done better? Well, that’s because you have hindsight now. And you are using it all wrong. Hindsight should not never be a weapon to batter yourself; it is instead a gift with which you are to light the dark paths you are yet to tread, a map you can at least refer to.

Listen, there exists no alternate universe. There isn’t another version of you existing somewhere else. There’s this one you, in this lifetime. And you only get one of these. You could either spend it trying to make up for that one bad decision. Or you could try to make the best of where you are at now, try to find the beauty in it. I am on the way to choosing the latter because try as I may, I cannot rewind the hands of time. I cannot make up for any of it. And quite frankly, trying to do so is exhausting. The best I can do is hope that my efforts suffice in bettering whatever future I have. None of that is possible will be possible if I pound myself down every chance I get for calling the shots at 16, when my hand were too frail to hold the weight of the choices I had to make. But my hands are stronger because of all that. And so are yours. In truth, that is all that matters: that the choices that could have once broken your arms, you can now carry in one, that you have learnt, that you have hindsight. Perhaps the beauty of live is that you must live it to learn.

See, when God made you and I, He factored in our stupidity. He knew we’d be here, racking up ridiculous decision after ridiculous decision. Yet He still saw it fit to give us each a purpose to serve, one so unique that it cannot be fulfilled by anyone else. Regardless of all the horrible decisions you made, you still have a purpose to serve; you are still of great value to the world, to God. Heaven and believes knows it. Perhaps the only person who doesn’t believe it is you.

So round up all those decisions, all those mistakes. Wash them in honesty. Smear grace all over them. And go again. You still could be so much more.

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