If I could turn back time

How can I enjoy the present when I keep hanging on to the past?

Stop looking back! Our elder helps a letter writer who is having a Cher moment.

Dear EWC

Hello, I am a well-educated and employed 26-year old woman. I work at a fabulous company and I am lucky enough to surround myself with wonderful friends and family, all who support me in everything that I do. I’m so grateful for everything that I have, yet I find myself struggling to live in the present and often find myself reminiscing about the past in an unhealthy way. You see, about a year and a half ago I closed the first chapter of my post-grad life and moved across the country to pursue my career dreams and to be closer to my family. With that came the sacrifice of the life I built in my prior city, a decision that, at the time, I was comfortable with. My move changed my career path, cost me a few friendships (as friends often drift apart), and ultimately, my three-year relationship with my now ex-boyfriend. My new life is filled with wonderful friends and opportunities, but I can’t seem to stop missing my old one and wonder if I made the wrong decision. I miss my old job, the comforts of my old city, and most of all, my ex-boyfriend. I know that moving back is always an option, but I know that it won’t be the same. I often think about what my life could have been if I hadn’t moved, which is unproductive and upsetting since there is no way for me to actually know where I would be if I had stayed. I think about whether my ex and I would have stayed together, would I be further in my career, would I own a house since the cost of living is less, and generally would I be happy/happier? It’s not that I don’t enjoy my life where it is now, but I am way too occupied with the life I used to lead. Knowing that I cannot re-create or change the past, how can I stop missing my old life so I can start embracing my current one?

Good-Listener replies

I’m sorry you’re feeling the way you do about things, and do believe it’s perfectly normal and healthy to question big decisions.  However, you do seem to have been able to move on with your life in a healthy way and take risks.  Not everyone can do that.  There are a lot of people (I know some of them) who never left their hometowns, have had few life experiences, and in some cases that’s fine.  In others they are short-sighted and fantasize their entire lives with “woulda, coulda”.

A thinking person will always question… it’s something you do because your mind is open.  That’s what allows you to see that you had a good situation but wanted more for yourself and took the chance to move cross country.

In 1976, a couple of years after college graduation, I left a great job, lots of friends, and a very comfortable life to move from the East Coast to the West.  I was miserable at first even though I too found a good job almost immediately and my life started quickly.  The “what ifs” come to me even now, but I never, ever regretted the move and what it taught me.  Which is why I don’t think you will regret this either.  The fact is, you are idealizing what would have happened if you stayed.  Maybe it would have been the way you say, and maybe not. If you’d never left, perhaps in 30 years you’d ask yourself, “what if” you’d taken your life in a different direction.

I spent 35 years on the West Coast and moved back to my home town in my late 50’s.  It was the right time.

You may decide at some point to move back, you may not—the point is you’ve given yourself an education by DOING, not imagining.  You’re young, will likely live into your nineties and will change jobs and careers many times.  Who knows where you’ll end up… but the point is, you took a risk and tried this.  

Try to embrace what’s around you now—with the most open mind you can.  If you are truly unhappy after enough time, you’ll move back or somewhere else, or some other opportunity may pop up that is neither A or B.  Take heart if you can.  You’ve taken advantage of opportunities that you’ve created and investigated.  If you truly are unhappy and want to go back, you will.  Nothing stays the same—certainly not in this crazy fast moving world and neither will you.  The more you are invested in this new life—with work, friends, maybe other activities, the better perspective you’ll have.  If you can think about what you have now and what you can achieve in the future, it may help you to think in a more positive manner.  Feel better and good luck!

Best Regards,

Elder Good Listner

Reference: #418423

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