How to free yourself from “unlived life” regret and begin anew
Great reminder for me: not feeling like unplanned and negative events are wasted time. During four years of infertility journeying I have often thought “how many years of my life am I going to waste trying to get pregnant?” But, as you said, everything ends up having meaning and creating the you that you are, even the shitty unplanned things.
A related concept: I really like the idea from Oliver Burkeman that, since there are always going to be literally infinite lives we did not live, we can feel comfortable in the idea that there will definitely exist great unlived lives, even if we make all the best possible decisions. Even a person with “the best life”- whatever that is to you today - has tons of great lives they didn’t live.
Thank you for this - especially loved Victoria Erickson’s quote - a gentle nudge to be the things you want to see and experience.
Thank you, this is so beautiful. Love especially this experiment of looking around at your life now as if it were the dream you dreamed.
Love this. I’ve experienced all those feelings you write about here at some point over the years. My life now in my late forties is different to the life I imagined (and dare I say, presumed) I’d be living when I was planning in my late twenties. There is a definite internal shift that happens in your forties too. One thing I will say is that I’ve found some of the most unexpected, surprising detours to have been the most fulfilling experiences. And moving towards ‘being’ what I’d like to feel and experience has been transformative. Who knows what lies ahead? We like to plan and think we’re the ones in control of everything, but that’s not how life goes. For anyone worrying about an unlived life or time passing you by, nothing is ever wasted. Enjoy London!
Love that this reminded me to be a beginner at more things and find the joy in that!
I had a dream last night that I was in my childhood bedroom and my mom was telling me to clean it up, and I bridled because I was an ADULT now and my dream self did the math, to tell her how old I am, and it hit dream me that I’m 42 - I’ve lived a full 21 years since I was 21, which waking me knew because of (duh) math - but the realization that I’ve lived two lives worth was super unsettling and followed me into my waking day as only dream realizations can. All this is to say, reading your piece this morning was exactly what I needed to be reminded that there is no “you have arrived” destination (or maybe we’re always there, whether we acknowledge it or not).
So many good reminders here--especially struck by this line, "I decide to look around my own life as if it is the dream I wanted to dream." Thank you.
Of course there is a nod, a salute even, to Adam Philipps' brilliant 'MISSING OUT; In praise of the unlived life'. Also, in my dreaming on this post, I am taken back to a TED interview (not talk) with Angela Duckworth (GRIT) where, towards the end of the hour, she says that there really should be a book titled NONETHELESS. (I am still working on that!)
The possible definitions of success, the reasons why I have this huge desire to be the best at something and why despite this desire I am a creator of that best version only in my unlived life and not in this one are the things I think a lot lately. I cannot really solve this paradox but I at least I have some ideas. It has a lot to do with today's culture that prevents me from being free and everything is hard when you are stuck in a cage.
Also, it is strange (or maybe not) that you are one of the first writers I really liked here on this platform and that now, while writing about this "paradox" for my not-so-important newsletter, I've seen this post. Thank you so much for sharing!
Not to give myself away as someone who had a small breakdown and got deep into stoicism last summer, but this newsletter reminded me of something Marcus Aurelius wrote:
“No one can lose either the past or the future - how could anyone be deprived of what he does not possess? ... It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all he has, he cannot lose what he does not have.”
I like to remember this when I think about the decades that have passed and those that lie mysteriously in front of me, that really I only have today in my control and there's nothing stopping me from trying to be the person I want to be in that time.
Anyway, looking forward to the next edition!