Entering high school feels like a distant moment now.
But, as if my clock were ticking backwards, I’ve recently been looking back on my life instead of moving forward. Instead all of my energy going towards the person that I could be, I am stuck at the age of fourteen, back when I was confused and scared. I saw the infinite unknown darkness of the world; it stared right back at me.
If I had…
The thought plays on loop in my head, as if my mind is a lake being drained, swirling away into the emptiness of regret, or maybe guilt.
If I had followed my heart, if I had said “yes”, if I had done that, taken that chance, would I be… happier?
I am eighteen now. The world, once infinite in its scope, feels narrow. I look back at my life and wonder if I should have done something different.
I think it’s the ‘not knowing’ that gets me. I don’t know what my life would be like if this wasn’t my story, if I didn’t make every single choice that got me here, to exactly where I stand right now.
But I wish that I could know. I wish I could just understand or even glimpse into the expansive cosmic possibilities, which in turn would express the very impossibility of me as a person. What is the probability of my existence? Of this version of me sitting here, writing here, breathing here?
At fourteen, I had no idea where I was headed. I’m eighteen now, and I’ve certainly gone farther and lived more than I ever could have imagined back then. I am actively happy that I made it here and that I have become this version of myself. It is only the smallest part of me who wonders, “If I could have known where I was going to end up, could I have been happier?”
The world, once darker, feels brighter when I pull myself from the remembrance of what I was. It is with difficulty that I look past the person that I was at fourteen but with happiness that I go forward. My past is an uncontrollable, necessary part of my present. Despite its every hardship and evil, it makes up who I am now.
If I have learned nothing throughout my life and throughout my four years of high school, I think that I understand a little bit more about regret, because there are a lot of things that I do regret. While nothing but time can ease that sort of pain, I can always ensure that future me can live as regret-free as possible.
“If I had, would I be happier?”
I hope to live a life where the answer to that question will always be ‘no’.
Writing and photography by Hazel J. Hall.