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Life's Journey: Should Have, Could Have, Would Have

Updated on June 10, 2014
Have you climbed the highest mountain?
Have you climbed the highest mountain? | Source

How many times have you heard yourself say it? “I should have done that”. “If only I could have been there”. “I would have but…”. You can fill in the blank with whatever excuse you used. We’ve all done it.

The truth is, the past is the past and we can’t change it. We’re wasting our time living with the “should have, could have, would have” syndrome. So how do we move forward without regret?

“Sometimes in your life you will go on a journey. It will be the longest journey you have ever taken. It is the journey to find yourself.” ― Katherine Sharp

Meet my friend Bill, the inspiration for this article.

My friend Bill Holland (aka Billy Buc) published an article that started my wheels spinning. He’s a terrific writer and always writes thought-provoking articles that make me re-examine my past and contemplate my future. Bill and I are baby boomers, born in the same decade on opposite sides of the country. Our journey through life has been similar in some ways and vastly different in others. The foundation of our friendship is built on our mutual desire to leave this world better than we found it and our love of writing.

Bill is a much better writer than I am. He was an experienced writer long before I ever thought of writing. When I stumbled on a web site called Hubpages a couple of years ago, Bill was the first to welcome me to the community and to help me navigate the site. Without his encouragement and guidance, I doubt I would have lasted more than a few months. I’ve learned a lot about writing from Bill since we became friends, but sometimes I think I’ve learned more about life from him than writing.

To read Bill’s article that was the catalyst for this article, click on the link above. It will open in a new window for you..

A summary of my life

After reading Bill’s article about never feeling quite good enough, I started thinking about my own life. As a child born in the 50’s, I was blessed to have parents with strong moral values and a commitment to raising their children to be caring, responsible adults. As a teenager, I rebelled against everything they tried to instill in me. I hung with the wrong crowd and made some bad choices, but I was lucky. None of my bad choices had any real serious consequences.

As a young woman, I fell in love easily and married young. It was a short marriage for one reason only. I was too darn young and I should have waited a few years. For the next ten years, I worked hard and played hard too. I was single, stubborn, and foolish enough to think life was all about having fun.

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More should have, could have, would have

My plans for a college education were traded for a paycheck. I had stumbled into a good job right out of high school and once I started making money, I had no interest in going in debt for an education. If given a chance to do it over, I would have made a different decision.

Time passed and in my late twenties, love struck again and I married for the second time. Like my first husband, this one was a good man. We both had good jobs, a strong foundation, and we enjoyed many of the same things. Life was good, for a while. Without going into all the details, I’ll just say that things changed. Alcohol destroyed our relationship and, my trust. The time came when I chose not to live with the unpredictability of life with an alcoholic. Sure, I could have stayed. I could have kept my mouth shut. I could have, but I didn’t.

Bill inspired me to look at myself.

Bill’s article talked about his feeling of never being good enough; having never won the highest award or not having climbed the highest mountain. He offered that he wasn’t telling his stories from a place of ego and I know that to be true. Bill, was simply using his gift of teaching and once again, I was his student. I began thinking about my own accomplishments or lack of. I asked myself what the regrets were in my life. This is the short list of my “should have, could have, would haves”.

  • I should have joined the service.
  • I should have gone to college.
  • I should have pursued a career instead of a job.
  • I could have had children.
  • I could have been more responsible.
  • I could have learned more and given more to others.
  • I would have made better choices about relationships.
  • I would have saved more money.
  • I would have traveled more.

These are pretty generic but I think they offer enough for you to understand the thoughts that followed. As I look at my list, I found myself thinking how different my life might have been if any one of my “should have, could have, would haves” had been different. Even a slight detour in any one of them would have changed the direction of my life. My life experience would have been very different if, for example, I had joined the service. That decision would have exposed me to strict discipline and travel. I would have met different people and learned new skills. Perhaps I would have settled in another state, missed those special moments with my family, or become more attached to money than core values. I would be a different person, wouldn’t I?

Bill's gift

When Bill shared his own feelings of inadequacy and missed opportunities, he gave me the chance to examine my own journey. I was reminded of my choices. As I was contemplating what I might change if given the chance and the answer was clear. I would change nothing. Although far from perfect, the result of my life experience is that I am content. I like where I am now.

It may have as much to do with age as it does wisdom, but my journey so far with no kids, two marriages, a modest income, and a loving family and circle of friends has been good, I am satisfied with my life. Oh sure, I still have goals and things I want to do, but if I never get there or do them, I won’t spend a minute in that rut of “should have, could have, would have:. Instead, I’ll trade them for “maybe I will or “I might”. Then, if I don’t, there will be no regret. I am where I am supposed to be and, I am who I am because of my failings and because I didn’t climb the highest mountain. I can wonder what I missed, but I will always, always, be grateful for what I've earned and learned by climbing the smaller one.

Thanks Bill!

“Sometimes a "mistake" can end up being the best decision you ever make.” - Mandy Hale


Submit a Comment

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    4 years ago from Central Virginia have brought it home. With or without those shoula, coulda, wouldas, we are who we are because....

    You bring light to my heart with every visit. Thank you. Wishing you the most wonderful weekend too.

  • Faith Reaper profile image

    Faith Reaper 

    4 years ago from southern USA

    Hi Linda,

    Wonderful perspective here, and Bill is certainly one to inspire! I know I have a boatload of "shoulda, coulda, wouldas". However, if it were not for those very "shoulda, coulda, wouldas", I would not be the person I am today for all of my younger mess-ups, and bad choices and such or just maybe wrong choices that I thought were the best at the time. I am now able to live in this day, the present, and make each day count ... seems all we can do.

    Up and more and away

    Blessings for a wonderful weekend

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    4 years ago from Central Virginia

    quildon, hello! Of course we all have them and you are so right; what matters is what we do with them. I do think that in this world of instant gratification and greed, many people find contentment quite elusive. It's too bad because it's a pretty good place to be. :-) Thanks so much for the visit and for taking time to share your thoughts. It is appreciated.

    teaches12345 - it's nice to see you here. Mistakes! Oh gosh, I made a ton of them along the way. Just ask anyone who knows me. lol Thank goodness for them though. Each one of them brought me to where I am today. It's not a fancy place or one where there is lots of money or attention but it suits me just fine. You're right about Bill. He inspires passion. That's a great assessment of him. Thank you so much for the visit!


  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    4 years ago

    I made mistakes along the way, some I wish I could erase, but as you have mentioned - it's what we learned along the way that counts and accept who you are. Bill is a wonderful person and has inspired many of us to live life with passion. Thanks for sharing from your life experiences.

  • quildon profile image

    Angela Joseph 

    4 years ago from Florida

    I guess we all have our couldas, wouldas, shouldas, but looking back never helped anyone undo the past. The best we can do for ourselves and those around us is to forge ahead with a spirit of contentment, as you are doing.

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Miz B! You know, I don't care how you find my hubs as long as you stay my friend and stop by once in a while. I think of you almost daily. I guess I should email you, huh?

    I need to learn about soul contracts cause like you, I can't seem to get it right. I'm okay with where I am and I basically take it like it comes to me but I'd sure like to understand a little better. Can you point me to some resources for learning?

    I applaud you for your two degrees that you earned later in life. I did enroll in college at the age of 34. I took a few courses (mostly English and writing) just to prove to myself that I could. It was the "math monster" that kept me from going further. I can't add 2+2 and come up with 4. lol Although I took Algebra and Geometry in high school, I never understood any of it. When I took my college placement tests, they suggested I get the remedial math book and study over the summer before taking any math class in the fall. I looked at the book and threw my hands up. I wonder if there is a remedial math for dummies.

    I agree with you about HP. Nothing is a greater teacher than life experience. Sometimes I look at articles written the way HP wants it and I think - "This person is no expert." I know they did nothing more than search the web and paraphrase multiple sources. It's pure bull in my opinion.

    I have my favorites here and they are small in number. The one thing I'm most proud of and happy about is belonging to this "old girl's" club.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your sunshine with me today. Love to you and a big hello to Mr. B. Hope you are both doing well.

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Dora, thanks so much for taking time to read and comment on this one. I like the idea of our efforts quadrupling and had never thought of it as such. Bill is a good teacher and also a terrific central point for others of us to meet and get to know each other. Welcome to my circle.

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    Doris James-MizBejabbers 

    4 years ago from Beautiful South

    Well, I did the same as you and Shauna. I am a little older but I grew up in the 50s when all girls were supposed to have a husband caught by the time they graduated high school. I got married after my freshman year, had two kids, and divorced an alcoholic 10 years later. I sowed my wild oats then, and I don’t regret it because now I don’t sit around and wonder what I missed. I did my college, getting two degrees after my oldest son graduated college. I guess my only regret is waiting so long because it opened my mind intellectually.

    I used to have a lot of regrets because it seemed that everything I did, everything I carefully planned out went wrong. I told my husband that it seemed like life changed the rules on me in the middle of the game(s). When I started studying soul contracts in metaphysics, I figured out why. If I was doing something in violation of my soul contract, life did change the rules. So I decided to just coast and quit trying. I figure that whatever life hands me now is the direction I’ll go in. I really would like to retire, though, but somehow it just won’t let me.

    Linda, I don’t know what is wrong with HubPages. I still don’t get notifications when you publish. I have to catch you when they send out the feed of all the day’s hubs, and it seems like I get the same five or six hubbers all the time. In fact, I had to stop following one or two because they published daily and sometimes as many as four or five hubs a day. I saw this one in today’s feed.

    Just let me say that I am so glad that you are here and are my friend. I like your reflections. Unlike HP, I think that peoples’ lives are sometimes better than fiction, and I enjoy yours and Bill’s. Voted you up+++, so there HP, take that!

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    4 years ago from The Caribbean

    I love the mood of acceptance and contentment. As I commented on Bill's article; we usually do more good than we know, since our efforts are multiplied in the people who benefit from them. Not to make our heads swell, but we deserve to celebrate where we are. Good read!

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

    I love and agree with your philosophy. Our journeys have taken us all to a point in life that is uniquely ours.

    I had a relatively brief period of regret / anger at a situation out of my control in my late 30s. Only after I learned to forgive myself for someone else's actions have I learned to let go of the "shoulda, coulda, wouldas".

    Wonderful to see you writing, Linda. Hugs, Maria

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    4 years ago from Central Florida

    Love you back, my friend!

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Shauna, we are without a doubt, sisters from different mothers. It is the what bound us together from our first encounter here on HP. We have shared parallel paths and learned many of the same lessons. Like you, I have no time for real regret. I kinda like where all those mistakes have brought me. I love you my spirit sister.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    4 years ago from Central Florida

    Linda, you and I seem to have a lot in common. I was born in the 50's, rebelled against my parents and sowed some wild oats. And I had a blast doing it. Had I continued, I'd probably be dead, but strong values taught by my parents gave me the strength to see the light and make changes.

    I, too have been married twice, although I was 34 when I married for the first time. I was 35 when I had my son. I figured it was better to have my yah-yahs while I was young rather than regret being a mom and longing for that freedom.

    I also opted for a job rather than college. Later, I did go to broadcasting school and my parents agreed to pay what the student loan didn't.

    Every step of my life has been exactly the way it was designed. I have no doubt. I have no regrets. I learned from my mistakes and am thankful I was free to make them.

    Today, at age 57 I still have choices. My life has given me that. There is no shoulda, coulda, woulda in my life. I lived exactly the way I wanted to and learned along the way. How could there possibly be regret in that saga?

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Bill, you said it all in your second message. Love you too!

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    4 years ago from Central Virginia

    Bill, yes you were the first and your friendship and kindness are a treasure. I have learned so much from you and from our conversations. As for HP, until they block me, I am going to continue to write from the heart. When they block me, I'll find somewhere else to go. lol

    So, to the future and learning and growing and sharing! Hugs and love to you too.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I commented on this and now it's not here...what's up with that crap? Sigh....Kindred, I'm in the middle of something and I can't be eloquent twice....I told you earlier that I love you....enough said. :)

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    4 years ago from Olympia, WA


    Despite HP's reluctance to have writers write about personal reflections, I think they are the greatest gift we can give to readers. All of us feel the same things no matter our background. We all share the same emotions, the same doubts, the same feelings, at times, of inadequacy. What you have written here will touch people and that, to my way of thinking, is what writing is all about.

    Thank you for your kindness and friendship. It is an honor to be your friend. (I didn't know I was the first to welcome you here...pretty cool)

    hugs and love



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