I meant, I meant…
If only, if only…
If only me auntie had bollocks, she’d be me uncle.David Brent – The Office, Season 2 Episode 3 – “Party”
I was round for tea at my girlfriend’s house one day when her mum relayed to me a quote she had come across earlier that day. Since this was thirteen years ago, I hope you’ll forgive me for not remembering the quote verbatim – or indeed the reason why she felt she should pass it on to me – but here is the gist of it anyway:
“Whatever happens, remember that you did the best you could, at that moment, with the tools you had at your disposal.”
At the time it struck me as remarkably stupid. Really dumb. Inane, even. Annoyed me. I nodded my head politely and wolfed down some more lasagna, but I couldn’t see how that kind of shit was of any relevance. To anyone. I was sixteen, after all – I knew everything there was to know. I gave it no more thought.
Except that I must have done, because it has stuck with me for thirteen years now, and I slowly came to see that my girlfriend’s mum was completely right. I mean, I can’t give her all the credit – she didn’t invent the quote. But if her only role in this tale was that of the messenger, she did a bloody good job.
Which brings me onto my real point: How many things have you fucked up in your life?
I can’t count mine, there are so many. Some bigger than others. Some more embarrassing than others. And yet – perhaps because I’m having such a nice day today and I can look out at the blue sky and I can smell the barbecues everybody has decided to have wafting in through the loft window – I honestly don’t think I’d change a single one. Because what would be the point? I’m here, now, aren’t I, for better or for worse? And I’m here, not in spite of those fuck-ups, but because of them. Seen in that light, it… sort of makes it hard to continue seeing them as fuck-ups, no?
Yeah, it’s easy to look back and think “If only I’d have…” But life’s too short for that. You didn’t. Whichever words you choose to end that sentence with, face facts – you didn’t. So move on. A hell of a lot easier said than done, of course. But no less crucial if you want to avoid living in a hell of your own creation.
If only you’d held your tongue. If only you’d held your fist. If only you hadn’t pussied out. If only you’d had just a little bit more time to weigh up your options, you’d have come to a much wiser conclusion and acted thusly…
But you know, and I know, that that’s complete bullshit. You did your best.
It might be painful to admit, much like looking at your own soul without sunglasses on, but everything you have ever done has been the best you could have wished for in that moment.
Now, you might not be able to go back and fix the past. In fact, there’s no “might” about it. You can’t. End of. But that doesn’t mean you have to despair, or try to awkwardly forget your past. Use it instead. Learn from it. And try to make your best a little bit better every day.
Most of all, forgive yourself for the fuck-ups. You really were doing your best.