“It is easy to look at the past and imagine everything you could have done. It takes courage to look to the future and see what you still can do.”
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These words came to me in the middle of the night, while my mind raced with what ifs.
What if I hadn’t taken time off to have the boys?
What if I had kept up with my blog and Instagram over the years?
What if I stayed in school and got my Masters?
I am the first to admit that I’m not great at finishing things. I have started, and stopped, dozens of projects and ideas over the years, everything from wedding planning and calligraphy to selling feminist shirts and blogging about tequila cocktails.
The biggest what if of all is, where would I be if I had just…finished something?
I’m a dreamer, which is a big reason why I have had all these ideas and plans. One of my favorite pastimes is just thinking about different scenarios: scenes from the many books I’m writing, how I want my future home to look, what my kids will be like when they get older, and yes, these what ifs.
While daydreaming isn’t a bad thing, the consequences of spending too much energy on the what ifs can be damaging. If I spend too much time wondering what would have happened if I tried harder in high school, my mind starts to play tricks on me. You’re not good enough where you are. Look at where you could have been if you had just tried harder! Needless to say, it’s not great for the self esteem.
Looking back and wondering what if is easy because we know the beginning of the story, and we know the now of the story. It also indicates that we are not satisfied with the now of the story, which is not always true.
In reality, I’m perfectly happy with my personal life at this moment. But the hardest part of going back to work after taking time off is looking at everything that continued to grow while you were away.
There are hundreds of wedding professionals and bloggers that have grown by leaps and bounds in the past three years. They have spent that time honing their craft, building up their social media presence and vendor network, and continuing to work on their brands.
I, on the other hand, have spent the past three years changing diapers, breastfeeding (more of that to come in a future post), and wondering what I really want to do with my life.
When I decided to get back into wedding planning, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I had experience and a portfolio, but both were outdated. Vendors that I “grew up” with were far beyond me in bookings and numbers. Not to mention the number of NEW wedding planners that are now well known in the area. Needless to say, it can be pretty damn discouraging.
It’s really difficult not to compare myself with all of these creatives. Because WHAT IF I had stayed? Would I be there too? Would I be the luxury wedding planner that I dream of being? Did taking time off mean that I gave up my spot for someone else?
These thoughts are so toxic. Especially when those ideas run wild to the point that you are laying in bed crying, wondering if it’s all still worth it? Definitely no good.
Thankfully I recognize the thought patterns that happen when I drift off into what if land. An exercise that has been really helpful for me is to look to the END of that story.
If I had continued planning weddings and building up my social media throughout my pregnancies and my kids’ first few years, would I be a famous wedding planner with tens of thousands of Instagram followers? In my mind, yes. I would be.
That is the key right there.
What I’ve learned is that it’s not about regret over the what ifs. It’s learning from them and moving forward.
If I had continued planning weddings, I would be a famous wedding planner.
An exercise that I’ve been doing to help with this is to look at that outcome, and instead of looking back with regret, I look forward at what I would need to do NOW to get to that point.
If going back in time and really focusing on Instagram would have built up my followers to the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands, what do I need to do now to get to that point? That’s the real question.
Thinking about everything I still can do definitely dulls the ache of what if. Because looking to the past and imagining everything I could have done is easy. But looking to the future instead and really evaluating what I need to do to get to the next point takes courage. And I’m choosing the courageous path.
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