For all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”
John Greenleaf Whittier wrote those words in 1856 in his poem “Maud Muller.” Many people understand the regret and sorrow that unfulfilled dreams of youth can engender. A corollary that I hear expressed is “I should have been born when…” Fill in the blank as suits – before this, after that, when men were men, and so on. A corollary of that corollary (would that be a corollarylary?) is, “I should have been born someone else.” I’ve been known to use that one.
What’s at the core of all this regret? Why aren’t we happy with our station in life? In my case, I feel like I was dropped off at the wrong station, and the train disappeared down the tracks with a belch and a billow of smoke. I may look at this station and not like it, but am I being fair? Is it really such a bad little station? Am I focusing on the negative? I mean, just scrape off that peeling paint, add a fresh coat, sweep the dusty wooden floor, or tear it up and replace it with marble, and add a skylight or two and a Starbucks and a couple of valets and an ATM, and…
Well, maybe I’m spiraling down the metaphor hole, but I think you see the point. Some of us may have a tendency to take the good things in our lives for granted. Nevertheless, I find myself pondering (and those who know me know I love to ponder) what life in a different time period might have been like. Would we have flourished in a different epoch?