When I look back upon the expansive yet monotonous yore of the past twenty years of my life, the sentiment that I feel the strongest isn’t necessarily regret. I did the best with what I had at the time, that’s the mantra I’ve been trying to incessantly memorize. However, what is life but a yawning chasm of wistfulness, of what-ifs, could-have-beens or should-have-dones? While I’m not plagued with bad decisions and treacherous regrets, there are a plethora of instances and phases of my life that I wished had gone differently – either by the flick of the wrist of fate or by my own actions.
What especially haunts me as I reminisce on my past is wasted time. All the days, months, years I’ve let pass me by without actively participating in my own life, giving into extended bouts of daydreaming and waiting for things to happen to me instead of taking control of my life and making them happen firsthand. As a teenager, I was painfully shy and self-conscious, and with the added trappings of having to perform femininity at all times, all the unhealthy and damaging messages I’d been spoon-fed through movies and TV shows and social media – they all amalgamated to form a me that I wasn’t really proud of. A me that was passive, self-involved, unmotivated, focused on all the wrong things. My attention and energy had been diverted not into doing my best to study and get the best grades, but into needlessly vying for validation in whatever form it may come in, into wasting my time with the wrong boys and the wrong friends.
Had I been conditioned differently somehow, consumed different kinds of media and mixed with different crowds, I would probably be someone I wouldn’t be able to recognize now. Someone who has nothing in common with me. I often find myself wondering – what would have gone differently if I had utilized the time stretching out in front of me and been more proactive? I wonder where life would have led me had I given into it with abandon, lived my adolescent years with all the zest and passion I could muster. Would I have been better or worse? More fulfilled, more confident, more self-assured of my own capabilities?
Sure, if I had a different mindset back then or if I wasn’t so debilitatingly anxious and shy, maybe I would have acquired a variety of experience regarding things like love, my career, friendships and just life in general. On bad days and stagnant stretches of time, I find myself envisioning the ‘me’ the exists in this ostensible alternate reality: I imagine she has her life figured out. I imagine she’s more self-adjusted, braver, stronger. It’s easy to fall into the trappings of believing in a ‘you’ that exists in an parallel universe, who is somehow better, smarter, more likable and competent because life had gone differently for them. It’s indubitably more appealing than the life that you’re currently living.
But I also staunchly believe that there is no other way my life could have gone. I had to go through things – or not go through things, in my case, let life pass me by – in order to realize that I need to start truly living. To not just float through life. And even if I did waste years of my life: so what? I can start now. I can do all the things I wished I did and experienced when I was younger. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember this, but it really is never too late to start. Just start here, right now, with whatever life has given you and make it beautiful and meaningful. That’s all any of us can ever do.
Written by Sreana Habiba