Be Careful What You Wish For

Categories Learning, Life, Self

What would you change if you knew how your life would unfold?

Would you eat healthier? Exercise more? Would you take better care of your teeth? Maybe you would get up the nerve to ask out the cute guy in your French class. Or maybe you would wisely say “no” when the cute guy at the gym asked you. I definitely wish five year-old me would have known how much adult me would love taking naps. Children do not appreciate the delicious respite a nap provides.

If you knew that you would experience sadness or loss, would you wish to escape them? If you knew you would suffer hardship or heartbreak, would you wish that away?  If you knew ahead of time what your life would be right now, would you wish for anything else?

Every now and then I wonder what else in my life would have been good to know ahead of time, besides the nap thing. My Mom always says, “Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it.” So if I wished that I had known things ahead of time, would I use that knowledge to change the course of my life? And if my life turned out differently, would I be happy with the result?

Be careful what you wish might just get it. Click To Tweet

If I had known ahead of time that any particular person would hurt or betray me or break my heart, would I have avoided a relationship with them? Or is it  better, as they say, to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all?  Even in relationships that did not work out well, I learned which kind of people I can trust to call friend – and which kind I cannot. I’ve learned what traits I do  – and do not – want in a husband and partner. I have seen good and bad examples of how to be a leader, a mentor, a parent, a friend, a spouse…

If I had known that I would leave a fifteen-year career for something completely different, I probably would have thought “what a waste” and chosen a different path. But at that time in my life, would I have known which path to choose instead? If I hadn’t spent fifteen years in that career, would I have met my husband?

If I had known before the wedding that my husband snored like a suffocating walrus, I may have thought twice about saying yes. Staying single would have meant I’d get more sleep. But would it have been a better choice overall?

Every choice we make in life leads us to precisely where and who we are at this moment. Click To Tweet

If I had been told ahead of time how challenging pregnancy would be or how traumatic our daughter’s birth would be, I would never have gotten pregnant. But then we wouldn’t have our daughter and our lives would be very different indeed.

If someone had told me how impossibly hard it would be to go back to college full time and work full time, or go to grad school at the same time I held down a full time career and handled life as a wife and new mother, I probably would never have started either of those degree programs. But then I wouldn’t have the knowledge base I do now and I wouldn’t have experienced the feelings of pride and accomplishment for all my hard work.

And if, based on the knowledge that I would eventually leave my teaching career, I may have opted for a different graduate degree. But I have said dozens of times that even though I am no longer a classroom teacher, every minute of my graduate course work has been useful in parenting my own child. So was that education degree wasted? Definitely not.

If I knew ahead of time that I’d sit in traffic for 30 minutes on a Friday afternoon, I could have taken a different route. But then maybe I would not have seen that sunset.

As I think back over my life I realize there is really nothing I would change. Have I made mistakes in life? Are there things along the way that perhaps might have been better avoided? Things I wish hadn’t been so painful? Absolutely. But I don’t wish them away. Having advance knowledge of people or circumstances could have been helpful, I suppose, but then my life wouldn’t be what it has been – a beautiful, challenging, frustrating, glorious ride.

I believe firmly that every choice we make in life, every word and action, leads us to precisely where and who we are at this moment. If any part had gone differently, the reality of right now would simply not exist.

And so I do not live my life with regret. Regret does not alter the course of my life. I choose to embrace the past – all of it – as part of my present.


This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post.

This week’s sentence is “I wish I’d known…”
Our host, as always, is Kristi Campbell of Finding Ninee, and our co-host is Kenya of Kenya G. JohnsonOur sentence thinker-upper this week is Jill of Ripped Jeans and Bifocals.


Lisa A. Listwa is a self-employed writer with experience in education, publishing, and the martial arts. Believing there was more to life than punching someone else’s time clock and inspired by the words of Henry David Thoreau, she traded her life as a high school educator for a life as a writer and hasn’t looked back. She is mother to one glorious handful of a daughter, wife to the nicest guy on the planet, and reluctant but devoted owner of three Rotten Cats. You can find her adventures and thoughts on living life deliberately here on the blog.

32 thoughts on “Be Careful What You Wish For

  1. That paragraph about the sunset is a great analogy for all the things we’d think we might do over. We wish we had known some things but would we have received the same rewards if we chose different paths? Speaking of paths, look at where blogging has led you! Congrats again!

    1. Kenya, definitely. There are many sunsets we would miss. It’s easy to think we might want to do things differently. But if we actually had that chance,how much would we really be willing to give up.
      Thanks for the congratulations. Blogging has absolutely brought good things and good people into my life.

  2. Making other choices does not guarantee that the new path wouldn’t have had the same level of pain as the one you chose. My thought has always been that I love the person I am, and I wouldn’t be who I am now if it weren’t for all the experiences that shaped me. Good or bad, they made me the person I am now.

    1. Hi, Tammy! You’re absolutely right and that’s precisely the point. Maybe some things are just going to happen no matter what choices we make. I think regret only serves to make us focus on what did not go well, rather than seeing all experiences as opportunity for learning and growth.

  3. I LOVE this so much. I agree completely with everything you said. I have no regrets, even for the mistakes I made. “The reality of right now would not exist.” That says it all.

  4. Oh, I ask myself this sort of thing a lot. I just wish I knew the answer to, “would I have ultimately ended up in this place anywhere regardless of which path I’d taken back then?” Is there a grand plan, a right or wrong answer at each turn? And if we take the wrong path, well, then, too bad for us? We missed what was meant as the grand plan for our existence? Or, maybe there isn’t a specific plan, maybe it’s all about free will, no right or wrong turn necessarily, except for the obvious wrong turns, and what we do with the choices we do make. That’s all such a mystery I’m riveted by and hope to one day have it all revealed to me. LOVE THIS LISA!!

    1. Thank you. Nothing makes us writers happier than when people love our words and relate to what we have to say, right? 🙂
      I don’t know if we’re supposed to know the answers. Having all the answers takes away the mystery, the adventure, don’t you think? On one hand it might be nice to have all that information, but in the end would we really want to know things like how certain situations will end up. I think of my Grandfather, for example. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he was told he had three months to live. If that was the final answer and he accepted it, we would not have had him with us, cancer-free, for another 20ish years. He made a choice to fight aggressively because he had too much left to do!
      I think our choices are our choices – definitely acts of free will. But I think there’s also room to believe that there may be a plan and ultimately our choices do lead us to the life meant for us. But at the same time? I have no idea. I don’t usually tend toward a fatalistic view where everything is pre-ordained.
      I like the mystery!

  5. Hi Lisa! I completely agree that everything that has happened to us is a necessary piece of the puzzle of our life. In some ways it helps support the parallel Universe theory that at every “decision point” we did splinter off into one who did it and the other who didn’t. That way there are different us-es out there living those other choices. For some reason that idea appeals to me know that I did make those other choices at some point–just not me that I believe myself to be at this moment. Anyway, I agree that it is best to live with no regret and make the most of the life right in front of us! ~Kathy

  6. Oh Lisa…this is just such a healthy and happy outlook that I agree with logically and am working really hard to arrive at for myself. I know it in my head and want my heart to catch up.
    It’s all there. I just need to focus and take those last steps to enlightenment.
    I would not change a whole lot either. A lot was painful, but a lot was wonderful.
    I seriously do not know how you did that all with school, work, new motherhood. You are one tough woman. Glad you started this blog instead of not, or we wouldn’t have met likely in the first place.
    Naps are great though.

    1. Thank you, Kerry. Be patient with yourself – compassion, remember? All things take time. And remember that it’s a lifelong process, too. 😉
      The answer to the question of how i managed school, work, marriage, and new motherhood at once is that I have no idea. I just kept plowing ahead and didn’t stop to think about it, I guess. I am very glad I started the blog because the friendships I have forged as a result are truly the best part – you included!
      And yeah naps are great. Now THAT I wish I had known a long time ago… 😀

  7. Oh AMEN to all of this, my friend. Although there are some things I would definitely change in my past… choices that still haunt me- but I soak them all in Grace any time the rise to beat me up again.

    BUT- all these turns in our life and decisions made truly do create the person we are and how we live our lives now. Some things we won’t fully comprehend the enormity of their purpose until years later, and others it becomes clear early on.

    I loved your look back and your message here, Lisa!

    1. Hi, Chris! That’s the best approach – take the things that bother you and soak them in Grace. Yes! It does no good to beat ourselves up about it. I always try to think “would I allow my daughter to talk to herself this way?” or “Would I talk to another person this way about the same situation?” That often helps.
      Thanks for your beautiful words. xo

  8. Lisa, this is wonderful. I think about this stuff all the time too. The 30-minute car ride and the sunset is an especially good reminder for me – I feel like I’m rushing all the time and sometimes I need those reminders of what’s truly important. I do think we learn from everything and that the paths that are right for us now maybe wouldn’t have been 15 years ago. So glad you linked this up!

    PS my husband snores like a walrus too but he says that I do as well so…

    1. Thank you, Kristi. I know and I get it – all that rushing and worrying and trying to get it all done? So easy to get caught up and forget the really important stuff. Like just breathing.
      You bring up a great point that I think about often – that the paths we travel right now may not have been the right ones 15 years ago. I am certain you’re right about that. I think about meeting my husband at a different time in life and know we wouldn’t have been ready for one another. Or having Zilla and parenting all the parts of her that make her so special. At a different time in life? That would so not have turned out the same.
      My husband did not enjoy the description of him snoring like a walrus. I claim I do not snore – only when I’m exhausted or sick, I claim. But I’m pretty sure I actually do snore because I’ve been awakened by snoring when I was the only one around sleeping, so…yeah. 😀

  9. This is wisdom: “As I think back over my life I realize there is really nothing I would change. Have I made mistakes in life? Are there things along the way that perhaps might have been better avoided? Things I wish hadn’t been so painful? Absolutely. But I don’t wish them away.” Still, I’d love to have had a crystal ball in those dark moment, to know that all would be okay:).

    1. Allie, I agree – it would definitely be handy to know that even thought he dark times it will turn out OK on the other side. In the absence of that crystal ball, I guess the best thing we can have is faith that we will get through and find joy on the other side. Or at least wisdom!

  10. Its always strange to look back and consider this. I think there were times when I would have treated others better, but for the most part, there isn’t much I’d do different, for all the reasons you mentioned

  11. “No regrets…they don’t work; No regrets now…they only hurt,
    Write me a love song, drop me a line
    I suppose it’s just a point of view,
    But they tell me we’re doing fine…”

    I sometimes think if I’d known the things life held, I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. There were times when life has been too much and I’ve wanted to go to bed and never get up but there’s always been *something* or (more likely) someONE to keep me going.

    It’s all stepping stones on a pathway leading to RightNow. And RightNow, there are things I would never, ever want to take back or change. Things I would prefer hadn’t happened. Things which I wish I could undo. But I’m thankful for all of it, because I can learn from all of it.

    Thank you (as an aside) for the constancy of your thoughts in this regard, over the time I’ve known you. It’s helped to read you and learn from you 🙂

    1. You’re exactly right – it is all part of the journey, for better or worse. It’s really not different than your philosophy of looking for the silver linings in life.
      Thank you for your very sweet words – that makes me feel hugely happy. xo

  12. Love the site changes – gorgeous.

    And living without regret is totally my philosophy. I wouldn’t have my children or my husband if I’d done things differently. It’s all working out fine!

  13. Sometimes I get so caught up in details – remarking on how small steps have paved the way for big life experiences. And so I get ahead of myself. “If I go this way, will that change my life?” It’s strange, but what I’m trying to say is that I agree. I wouldn’t change a thing. It all led to this strange place.
    Although I would have been better about dental care! All those dental bills!

  14. Beautiful, Lisa. I feel the same way, except for maybe the getting stuck in traffic part. I often say I would have chosen a different major in college, but who knows how that would have changed my life. I know it’s all theoretical, but I’m not willing to gamble this life away even if I could.

    1. That’s a great way to put it, Dana. Who knows if different choices would change anything. I’m OK with the right now. My husband and I were just talking about the college major thing – if he had known he’d end up in computers today, he would’ve gone with that major to begin with (it was one of his two choices). But if he hadn’t, who knows if we would ever have met?

  15. We really need to be careful for our wishes. When I look into my past, I just met with a person who was emotional and less practical. I care too much about people who never gave a damn about my care. I wish I could do the same to them. I think I am a better version of myself now. I got complete control over my emotion. I am less emo and more controlled now..

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