What If...

Kira and Joanne asked some really good questions about "What ifs." My reply on their blogs was this:

I have to say I'm a sucker for "what ifs," especially on a personal level. What if I were rich? What if I were famous? What if I had the perfect love of my life? What if I had the perfect life? What if I had sold a million and a half books? What if...

But sooner or later, I need to step back and think, why do I wish for something else other than what is going on, at present, in my life? Am I so dissatisfied with my own life that I have to think that way?

I am a great daydreamer. When I was a kid I daydreamed so much that it actually affected my schooling. LOL. But I think there's a difference between "dreaming" and "what ifs" though... Dreaming is a good thing, and it keeps my hopes high and motivates me. "I dream of being a writer" is a good thing. Now "what ifs" -- what if I did this and that and how would my life had turned out? What if... I think that kind of "regrets" or "wishing for something different" or "I wish my life was better" could be detrimental to our health and how we live life.

I agree with Jo that worrying about outcomes (or anything that is not in our control) is worthless. The best we could do is to do our best, and let the power that be to determine what happens next. It's not to say we should just sit on our hands and do nothing. Being reactive is not the answer. Being proactive is a good thing. But to stress over something we can't control (such as how other people behave, or "if I do this, something should happen like that..." it's not very healthy.

Unfortunately, I do that sometimes. Lately, I've been stressing about the "future," but in a negative way: what if no one wants to read my book? What if I am a failure? What if I can't finish my second? What if I don't make it? What if. I have allowed myself to sink to minor depression just by thinking these negative thoughts. I've taking that "worrying" gene from my mother. The older I get, the less I'm like my father (who doesn't worry about anything!) and more like my mother (who is a perpetual worrier).

The fact is, I don't know. I have no control over what will happen next or what will others do -- anyone who says "if you do this and that, you WILL be a best seller" or "if you do this and that, you WILL make millions and have a good life" or "if you do this and that, you WILL be happy" are not being truthful. There is no "WILL" -- there is only "MAY.' Sometimes, I guess that's my frustration -- I try to do everything right, but people still don't give me the time of day, and I wonder, "What if I am never going to make it?" I have to make myself stop.

I think "what ifs" could be helpful if we have good perspectives and use them in a positive way. Hoping for the future, but definitely NOT regretting the past.


I have lived a rather calm life so far. Maybe a little too calm. Sometimes I crave excitement, success, fame, fortune... What if I were a big star and my pictures are on the cover of magazines? LOL (Yeah, I am an attention whore). I do ask what if questions, but I tend not to regret the past. I know there's a reason for everything -- and the biggest reason of all is that I'm here to experience life. Good, bad or ugly, I'm here for that purpose. It makes the bad things more bearable for me. And it makes it easily for me to not "regret" anything. But of course I do; I'm simply human. My "what ifs" though are usually about "alternative outcomes" instead of regrets. I don't ask "what if I hadn't come to the US?" or "what if I hadn't hit my head and gone into a coma?" Or "what if I hadn't done this or that? Or what if this or that didn't happen to me?"

My questions are more like "what if I had gotten married in my 20s like many of my friends did, and I had a nice family..." or "what if I went into writing or the arts in college?" OK, I take it back, these "alternate life" thoughts do seem to imply regrets. That I am not happy with my present life. I don't think it's true, though. I think I'm relative happy with what I've got. I know I am blessed...

Let me explain. I like my life. I think I've been very lucky and I have lived a "charmed" life in many people's life. I am relatively happy with where I have been and where I am heading. But like most people, I think about "what's on the other side?" I am curious. Though I love my yard, I do wonder if the grass next door is in fact greener. Would I be happier (because God knows, I have been unhappy about things)?

My family was poor when I grew up (we're still not rich by any standard), and so I was always surrounded by kids richer than I was, and I also compared myself to them. In Hong Kong, the environment I grew up in was extremely competitive. Not only in terms of academic achievements or intelligence, but also in terms of material and status. I never had the kind of shoes other kids were wearing. I never had clothes like theirs and my father never drove a fancy car like their fathers'. When you grew up being compared to kids like them, you started to wonder why your life sucked. And soon I stopped noticing what I had, that I was a wonderful, resourceful, intelligent boy full of possibilities and imagination.

Then I have to stop myself, again. I am taking the path I am taking because it's the path I am supposed to take. We could all look at other people and wonder why they have something we don't have. Why then seem so much happier? But there's no guarantees in life. Just because someone does something and finds what they want doesn't mean that's what *I* want or need. I have my own path, my own journey, and my own destiny.

My mother is a perpetual worrier and regretter. I think I've gotten part of that gene. However, thanks to my father, I've also gotten that happy-go-lucky whatever-will-be-will-be gene. So on some days, I am in battle with myself -- part of me wonders what might have been and why so-and-so is more successful than I am and why I can't be like them? My mom's talking. Then I'd stop myself and tell myself, Ray, you're one lucky son of a bitch, so why are you whining about? Yes, you don't have everything you ever wanted, but who does? There's always something else, even if you're the world's richest, most famous, most wonderful, smartest, handsomest person in the world, there's always something else. When will it stop? So quit your whining and count your blessings.

I do.

I won't list them here, but I know I am blessed. I need to remind myself, when I am down, that I am blessed. I still need to work hard toward my goals, and part of that goal is that I want to learn and experience life. But also need to know that stopping to smell the roses is also part of that experience.

So back to the what ifs? What if my life hadn't turn out this way? What if my life had turned out shitty? I think I would still be having this conversation with myself, because I believe I am here to experience and learn. I know, this all sound so "New Age" and so unlike my other "take no prisoners" type A philosophies. Maybe I am schizophrenic; I don't know. Sometimes I'm like, yeah, yeah, be active and go for what you want and just do it. And sometimes I feel like I should just stop, sit back, and let's see where life takes me.

What if?


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