About 10 years ago, I faced a choice between the love that was known to me, and the chance to venture away into an unchartered life with someone new.
The love of my life started when we were quite young, and it fulfilled all of its promise and then some. We were there for each other and shared memories.
The new guy was an adventurer by nature. Letting go of the past would mean jetting off to fulfill parts of my deepest self that always wondered what was out there. …
… I recently ran into the person I didn’t choose. I see how happy they are and wonder if I made the wrong choice. How can I be sure?
Dear Road Not Taken:
I purposely left out which path you chose so that we can all bask in an existential truth and beauty. It doesn’t matter which way you went except in hindsight.
None of us will ever know how the life we didn’t choose might have turned out. We can only know that it didn’t. That unchosen life doesn’t exist. A great writer once called it “the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
The trick is leaning into it. When you were back at that crossroads and when you are at your next one: Lean into the uncertainty, go with your best gut feeling, and know that there is no wrong answer. Whichever way you go will be the way you went.
When I was in my 20s, I was bad person. I lied and stole for fun. I kept toxic secrets and hurt people if it served me. Doing something “wrong” was an option if I thought I could get away with it.
I started to turn a new leaf. Working toward a clear conscience gives me relief, but part of me thinks I’m still a bad person living the lie of a good one.
I’m afraid of being “found out” and slipping back into my old habits.
Every person reading this has a dark side, has spent time indulging it and felt guilty to the point of feeling beyond redemption. No matter the level of our indiscretions and poor decisions, no one looks back and sometimes wincing.
A phenomenon called Imposter Syndrome tells our brain we are a fraud. Don’t believe it. Shrinks say it’s just a manifestation of a healthy self-check system.
You are the person who did bad things, and you are also the person who takes steps to improve. Who we were and who we are have to share the same brain and body, but they can coexist.
Rather than focus on the past, focus on what you can control — the present. Every “good” act changes who you are fundamentally, and Future You is built with an increasing number of those better behaviors to outweigh the older ones.
Q Advice is for entertainment only. Send burning Qs to mike@theQatl.com.
Illustration by Brad Gibson
This column also ran in Q ATLus magazine. Read the full issue here:
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