[noun; ~Pronunciation: /ree-al-i-tee/]
- Definition: The world we live in, as it is. Not our thoughts, not our prayers, not our wishes, but that which we see when we open our eyes is reality. No erasers to get rid of our mistakes, no re-set button to start over. Ongoing life, eternal reality.
“Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality” – Nikos Kazantzakis
Yesterday my mother had a silly accident when she went swimming with her grandchildren. Nothing too serious, but she miss-stepped getting into the pool and hurt both of her knees in the process.
She got home safe, which is exactly the point of this post, because she managed to make a fifty minute drive with aching knees without causing any accidents. When she got home and showed me her legs, her knees about three times their normal size, I immediately put her on the sofa and brought her a cold pack. My father came in later, but when he heard the knee-story he got all upset.
Really, properly, madly upset. At my mother. For being irresponsible and hopping behind the wheel (quite literally, I can imagine) instead of calling us to pick her up.
I get it, I totally do. He was worried her stubbornness could have led to something worse than two swollen knees. But in life, there are no “what ifs”. There’s only reality.
Sure, you think of risks before you undertake anything, such as with going on a faraway trip (what do you mean, personal example?). You weigh the pros versus the cons and make a decision: do I go? What if the organisation I go with is a bad one? What if I don’t like my travel companions? What if I get sick on the trip? And so on. Many of these future-what-ifs can be put to rest by checking credibility of the travel agency, for instance, or making sure you’ve got extra phone numbers from your health care and travel insurance on you during your vacation. But basically, those are “just in cases” and not so much “what ifs”. The latter can ruin your brains for real, let me tell you!
A few examples:
- “What if I had gone to a different high school, would I have been bullied as much?”
- “What if I had stayed at the new gym as an instructor, would I have been happier now?”
- “What if I had kissed that guy years ago, would we still be a couple today?”
- “What if I had put in more effort in high school, would I have graduated cum laude? Would that change anything now?”
- “What if I hadn’t gone to college and had kept working for company B, would I be in charge of my own store now?”
The sad truth is: you can’t change reality. If an accident happened, you can think of all possible different things you could have done to prevent it, but it won’t change the fact that it’s happened. You can’t go back in time and change the future, no matter how many movies or video games they make on the subject. Life is life, you only get one chance, one shot, and no second try.
“What ifs” are horrible, they keep us looking back, thinking about what we could have done to change the present outcome, while in fact we should focus on what lies ahead. Learn from our mistakes and move on.
“What ifs” are not real. They won’t help you change reality, they only make you suffer.
What if my mum hadn’t gone swimming? She might have fallen down the stairs and hurt her knees there. You simply don’t know.
There’s only one reality, and that is the life we are currently living. Don’t hurt yourself by thinking how you could have done something different. Reality is: you didn’t. Now stop worrying about it and look forward. Take whatever happened (or didn’t happen) as a lesson to change your future reality.
I bet you my mother is never going to pay attention to a zillion different things while climbing down a pool ladder, as she’s not very fond of her current reality. I don’t think she’d like to repeat this in the future.