There is no Power Point presentation to life, but if there were, it might look something like this.
Some choices in life are trivial; little is at stake. Others are fateful; they change everything.
What makes a choice trivial or fateful? Consequences. How much they hurt. How long they last.
Consequences aren't always what you expect, what you were led to believe, what you saw upfront, what you bargained for.
There are consequences you can live with. There are consequences you CAN'T live with, but you do anyway, because you have no other choice.
Fateful choices take you places (or keep you trapped in places) you don't want to spend much time in let alone the rest of your life, even though the choice seems right—appeals to you—at the time you make it.
The choice is always just the beginning—the first step; the consequence is the long road ahead. The demands. The pressure. The pain. The disappointment. The grief. The regret. The bitterness. The profound sense of loss.
Just because something seems exciting or makes you feel good this minute doesn't mean you're going to enjoy what comes along with it once the enthusiasm, the satisfaction wears off. Demands, costs, limits, obstacles linger long past the starting point. They can last a lifetime even. They become your life, though you'll swear you never saw it coming.
The price you pay for doing something is found in what you aren't able to do later, what isn't permitted, isn't possible.
The true cost of something is measured by the opportunities you give up.
The true cost of something isn't obvious until time passes, and by the time it's obvious it's harder than ever to change, too late even.
Fateful choices remove options, erect barriers, reduce resources, forfeit opportunities.
Fateful choices limit, contain, and restrain the one who makes them. They hold you down. They hold you back. They're side tracks, dead ends, literally. You can see the path you should have chosen and where it leads, but you can't get there from where you ended up.
Fateful choices are exclusive—they rule things out. You can have one thing or the other, but not both. Not now. Not ever.
Fateful choices are a trade off. For everything you get, you give up something else, usually a lot of things. For everything you've got coming, there are things you'll never see see again.
Nothing can ever be truly undone. There is no starting over. Not really.
Consequences are forever. You can struggle to get out of them, but you can never get back to the starting point. It vanishes over your shoulder, along with many of the possibilities that once lay ahead. One recedes; the others disappear as if someone pulled a plug. They're taken off the table! You're left standing, struggling in the present, longing to do the impossible, to start over, to go back in order to get it right, to fix things that would enable you to move forward. But you can't. No one can.
You can get a divorce, if you married the wrong person, but don't think that won't be traumatic, even under the best of circumstances.
You can go back to school, if dropping out once seemed like the answer to some question that never really got asked.
You can get clean and sober, if that's how you've ruined your life, and try to mend the scars and rebuild the trust you trashed along the way.
You can do many things, but you can never really get back the life that you would have had otherwise, because you never created it in the first place. You created something else instead.
There's a bottom line to all this, and it isn't pretty. You can never get back the time wasted.
The most precious things you have going for you when you are young are enthusiasm, innocence, potential. Each decision you make dips into that well. Those are the qualities you throw away with the choices you make. That's what you're going to miss. That's what you're going to regret later.
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