We’ve all made decisions we regret in life. It’s part of the human condition. All of us have at some point turned left when we should have turned right, or said ‘yes’ when we should have said ‘no’. Or, what’s even worse is to look back and remember one of those crucial moments when we said ‘no’ and really should have said ‘yes’… Ouch.
I won’t go all Robert Frost on you. I think we’ve all heard plenty of times ‘and that has made all the difference’. Enough to know that decisions are important and how they take us down our paths in life, blah, blah,blah. It’s just that most of them aren’t as blatantly obvious as Mr. Frost’s lovely, slightly overgrown path. So we do the best with the limited knowledge we have to work with.
Some decisions we’re completely stuck with, while others we can change – or fix. Some decisions didn’t make the slightest difference in the long run and some simply had to be made. Some seem foolish in retrospect, and some we’d never undo, even if they caused us pain and heartache, simply because they contributed to creating the person we are today. They led us here.
In life, there has to be conflict. There has to be pain. There have to be mistakes and regrets and foolishness. Occasionally I’ll find myself wishing that life was like one of those old “choose you own ending” books. I used to get these from the library, or find one in my stocking on Christmas morning. I always kept a finger in place whenever I made a choice that wasn’t 100% certain about (and of course that was all of them). Then, by the end of the book, I’d have most all of my fingers trapped on different pages, in different places in the story, and could barely even turn the page. I don’t know how many times I went back and re-tried a decision, but it always seemed to be necessary because I always managed to find all of the endings that led to horrible, agonizing death.
But perfection, a clean conscience and a history of excellent decision making doesn’t make for a person you’d want to be friends with, let alone be. And so it is with the fictional characters. You need their wrong turns, the huge mistakes that can’t be recovered from completely. It’s drama. No matter how much you love the characters, you need their struggles and pain to make the story. This is what gives them the opportunity to grow and find new paths if they’re strong, or crushes them if they’re weak.
So no apologies to any of them as I put them through it all. Their reward for the tough times is that they’re more memorable, more flawed, more entertaining and more human, just like the rest of us. Even if they have to screw up over and over, every time someone reads their story through, it’s worth it in the end. Where’s the fun in us learning our lessons the first time anyway?