alternate endings

Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.
— Arthur Miller

In a book called Pretty Little Mistakes, there is no ending. There are endings. Alternate endings. Over 150 different ways a life can unfold...all based on the power of choice. It begins on page five when the reader is forced to make a decision: Europe or California. That single choice can mean the difference between living homeless next to the river, or owning an opulent mansion in Beverly Hills. 

When I was a sophomore at Boston College I stumbled upon page five in my choice of whether or not to study abroad. (Spoiler alert!) I did not choose Europe. My decision to stay in Boston (which is far less glamorous than California) for all eight semesters was quick and definitive. Two short years later, I was full of regret and wishing I could flip back and choose differently. I envied my peers for their choice to spend a semester abroad, and desperately wanted an alternate ending. 

I'll never know if a different decision that spring day could have prevented an epic personal disaster my Junior year, or just prolonged the inevitable. I'll never know if a break from rigorous science courses would have helped or hurt my dreams of dental school. I'll never meet those friends, or make last minute plans to spend the weekend in Copenhagen. And I'm perfectly okay with that. 

We are told to live without regrets, but I've chosen to live with two. Choosing sunshine over a goodbye and a rigid timeline over an adventure are decisions that seared important life lessons into my memory. They changed the way I live. And for that I am grateful. 

I finally decided to leave my study abroad pity party last fall while watching Union Jack wave in the breeze above Parliament. Five years after my fateful decision, I was standing in London on a textbook perfect sunny day. (Yes, this weather pattern does exist in England, and without it I would never have realized Parliament is gold. The shiniest gold ever. Mesmerizingly gold. But that is beside the point.) Surprisingly, that moment didn't translate into letting my regret go. Not a chance. Instead, I decided to embrace it. 

I am racehorse with blinders. Only my regret could point out such a fatal flaw. It might have taken me years to finally push past the negative feelings, but I learned that looking at life goals with such narrow views can be just as detrimental as a complete lack of focus. It's this discovery that will prevent me from not only missing out on amazing adventures in the future, but also from wishing I could rewrite a chapter differently. 

Pretty Little Mistakes is a book of do-overs. A second, third, and fourth chance to change the story's ending, but there is no flipping back to page five in real life. There are no alternate endings. We only get one story, and I'm grateful mine includes regret.