I Did the Best I Could and That’s Enough
How I finally made peace with the fact that, in every fateful moment of my life, I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. Even when the road led to disaster.
Youth is the most precious thing in life. It is too bad it has to be wasted on the young.
The irony of these words – belonging to George Bernard Shaw – is not wasted on me, as I first heard them when I was a lot younger myself. And, just like Shaw intuited, much less wiser than I am now.
The idea of “wasted youth” rang true and beautiful for me, but I only grasped it recently. When I came to terms with the sad waste of my own youth.
With more time on my hands than ever before, I started thinking about the past. What could I have done differently? How would my life have played out in that parallel scenario, where I was smarter, savvier and more strategic with my own happiness?
How much heartache could have been avoided? How much meaningless turmoil spared? How much energy, time and soul saved?
Do you ever feel like you’ve wasted years of your life and, if given the chance, you would live them all so differently? For me, this lingering and nagging thought was the catalyst for turning my life around, two years ago.
I realised that something with my life was completely off when I would catch myself daydreaming more and more about “What could have been?”.
Ever so often, my mind would slowly and subtly drift away into a land of what ifs and could have beens. So much that it soon became my favorite escape and the one thing that soothed me when I closed my eyes at night.
You know those movies in which the leading character wakes up and suddenly it’s 30 years ago and she/he has a fresh new start at life? That was my utmost fantasy. UNDO-ing my life.
And that was also the moment I had to fully confront myself. The darkest parts included.
What wasn’t working in the current reality that made me so unhappy? What malfunctioned so badly that it made me dream of hitting the “Reset” button and not looking back? And the answer was inconveniently and painfully simple: everything. Or, better said… nothing.
Nothing was working in my life at that time, so I did the only thing that felt right: I started to offload and to simplify. To deconstruct, to dismiss and to rebuild.
After almost two years of doing that, wholeheartedly and somewhat painfully, I realised that I have one more essential and difficult thing left to do: to forgive myself.
I look around and see that my current life is much more than I could have dreamt of. Two years, a radical change and a new life.
However, I subconsciously still blame myself for wasting so many good years and for bringing my life on such a brink of unhappiness that it had to be completely rebuilt.
It’s like being caught in an endless legal battle with an architect that built you a crooked house, one that you had to knock down and reconstruct from scratch. Only it’s a battle where you are both defendant and plaintiff. You built it, you tore it down, you put it back up.
It took me quite some time to get out of this circle of inner blaming because, truth be told, I had a lot to forgive myself for.
I had to forgive myself for suppressing my own desires in favor of what was acceptable or considerate. For having a dreadful sense of self and listening more to what other people had to say than to my own intuition.
For ignoring my inner hunches about people I shouldn’t have let around me.
For hoarding stuff instead of confronting pains.
For not running away when I had the urge. For conforming. For not taking better care of myself. For not having my own back. And for so much more.
There’s a whole trend nowadays about blaming the parents for our life’s mishaps. Somehow, we made it all about them: the way they raised us, the hugs they failed to give, the support they lacked to offer, the “I love You”s they didn’t provide.
We blame our parents and, after a certain point in life, we start blaming ourselves even more for all we failed to do with our own lives.
I never really blamed my folks for not showing me „the ideal way” to navigate this rapidly-changing world, that honestly they knew little about themselves. But I did blame myself for not being smarter sooner. For needing years to wise up about the important things.
At this point in my life, I came to terms with the fact that both my parents and I had one major thing in common. Them, me and any other human being that breathed and lived.
In every single moment in time, we all acted based on the knowledge we had and the experience we owned.
Choose any random moment of your personal history and you will realise that you did… the best you could do, with what you knew. Even your personal disasters were once your finest work of strategic planning.
That was your best shot. You took it, now own it.
You didn’t know then what you know now, but instead of dwelling on the past, we should maybe take all our regrets and „should have beens” and use them to fuel our present and future. Maybe we didn’t know so many things back then… but we do now.
Blaming the past keeps our eyes on the past, but I found my own way of healing the past while focusing on the future: I think about all the things I SHOULD have done differently… and do them now.
I use that retrospective wisdom in order to bolster my present, which is the only thing I am able to change and mould as I desire.
Yes, I wasted good years and opportunities on bad decisions. Dwelling on them would only lead to even more useless waste.
Instead, I choose to draw a line and start over. Smarter, wiser, more strategic, but also kinder to oneself. Humbler.
This is probably the most precious lesson I got from my mistakes and it’s one I plan on honoring every day, for the rest of my life.