Like most other people, I sometimes catch myself thinking about what life - mine and others - would be like if I had made different decisions. I don't do so with regret or disappointment, but with genuine curiosity. There exists a theory that there are infinite other universes, and that new ones are created every instant with every possible outcome or decision branching out into a new universe or dimension of existence. This intrigues me, because somewhere out there could be multiple versions of me that never decided to get on that plane, never took that class, or never got that job. I would like to meet those alternate "me"s, talk to them, see how they are doing. I wonder whether future versions of myself would want to thank me, yell at me, or warn me. And what would I have to say to past versions of myself? What advice or warnings could I possibly give them without knowing what all the alternatives could be? This, of course, all boils down to the same armchair-philosopher question, the "Would you have done anything differently?" motivational posters that office workers hang in their cubicles. However, it remains a difficult question to answer.
The concept of regret is one I continuously try to distance myself from, as it is arguably the most useless emotion bestowed upon us by whichever cosmic entity you choose to believe - or not - in. Unlike fear, anger or greed, it doesn't motivate us. It doesn't provide the comfort and warmth that love or friendship do, nor can we learn from it the way we learn from pain or pleasure. All that regret can teach us is that we want to avoid it, because the emotional drain it can cause us is amplified by the fact that we cannot change the thing we are regretting - it's in the past. Until time ceases to be linear for us humans, that means that we are stuck regretting something that we can never change. That's an awfully unappealing prospect to most folks, but it's difficult to just flip a switch and decide to stop regretting something, at least it is for me. We use tired expressions like "Hindsight is 20/20" to make up for decisions which, in retrospect, may not have always been in our best interests or that of others. "It was the best I could do with the information I had at the time", we try telling ourselves. We conveniently forget that we are looking at our past selves through rose-colored glasses, and that we could indeed have maybe done things differently. We never call our hindsight 20/20 except when we think we've made a mistake. It's never something we say about the good choices we've made in life.