Certainty is an ironic idea.
Because aside from time moving forward, the only thing that’s truly certain in life is the fact that life is a truly uncertain experience.
No matter how perfect our plans may seem, or how hard we work to succeed in our goals, the chance of failure will always linger – ready to set fire to our efforts and reduce our plans to ash.
It doesn’t matter who or what was responsible for the disasters left in failure’s wake, nor does it matter how great or trivial the mistakes were that set them off – the burns we endure as a result are always difficult to heal from.
The ashes of disaster can haunt us for weeks, months, or even years as they keep us awake at night, thinking about what could have been done differently to avoid them.
What choices could have been made instead, and what doors they would have opened.
Where we could have gone, and what we could have been.
It’s a dilemma I think many face in one way or another, whenever hindsight gets the better of us.
I know I’ve spent plenty of nights staring at the ceiling, stuck thinking about the opportunities I’ve missed out on because I failed to take them while I had the chance.
And how maybe if I had just been more focused on the goals I had set for myself years ago, if I had just tried harder, they could have all been accomplished by now, rather than weighing me down with the regret that I just wasn’t good enough to achieve them.
But hindering ourselves through hindsight and being stuck in the past where yesterday’s failures cloud our vision for tomorrow’s potential is no way to live life.
Because the only thing that’s truly certain in life, aside from its truly uncertain experiences, is the fact that time moves forward.
And no matter how long we think about the ways we’d change our pasts if we could, or how much better off we think we’d be if we just had a chance to restart, time will never turn back.
We can only follow time forward.
Yet, that’s not to say we can simply escape our failures by running away from them.
Since, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” as the philosopher George Santayana wrote.
Mistakes can’t be masked over, and failures can’t be forgotten.
While time will certainly move us away from them, the ashes of their disasters will just keep holding us down until we’re finally able to overcome them.
Hindsight can be helpful in that way, allowing us to recognize what went wrong and why – a crucial step in learning from mistakes so they’re never made again.
But the challenge of looking back is to not let ourselves be haunted by the question of, “What if?”
Rather, we have to accept the past for what it was and ask ourselves, “What now?”
There’s a lyric from my favorite childhood movie I often look to whenever I find myself depressed over past mistakes and failures.
It’s from a silly old musical – “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” – but I still find it inspirational when they sing, “From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success.”
Because maybe the best decisions weren’t made in the past, and maybe the doors we originally wanted to enter were closed off because of them.
But for every door that closes, another one opens. Time relies on that to keep moving forward.
Maybe failure forced us into doors we weren’t so happy to enter, and maybe they were difficult to go through, but on the other side came experiences we never would have had otherwise.
Lessons we never would have learned, places we never would have gone, friends we never would have met – all giving us the opportunity to be who we are today and become better tomorrow.
So, maybe life’s uncertainties aren’t so bad as we make them out to be.
And maybe we never really failed to begin with.