The Road Not Taken

I think most of us have wondered, at many times in our lives, what it would be like if we could take a different path, re-live certain hours, days, or months of our lives.  What would it be like if you went to the prom with Bob instead of Bill, with Susie instead of Mary?  Would you have married the other one? If you took job A and moved to town A, instead of staying where you were, would you have had a bigger promotion, failed instead, met a different partner, or something else?  Robert Frost, the great American poet, wrote about that in “The Road Not Taken”, saying “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both”, which we all know.

Of course we can’t go back in time and take a different path. And I’ve learned not to spend much time thinking or worrying about it, just for that reason. And also not to worry much about things that are completely out of my control, like politics, war and peace, the economy, the “big issues” that many spend time and energy on.

However, one aspect of my life does provide that opportunity. In duplicate bridge, which I play almost daily, a given set of hands that have been dealt are played by 6 to 15 pairs of players.  The game is scored by comparing the results (number of points) achieved by each player. Since after the game is over I can see how I did with a given hand of cards compared to how others did, I can essentially re-live that several minutes of my life. What if I’d led a different card?  What if I’d taken my tricks in diamonds before the tricks in hearts? What if I’d been more observant of my partners signals in her play of cards?

In this analysis of hands of cards, which I do almost daily, I get confirmation of what I consider to be “universal truths”. First, there are times you couldn’t possibly do better, no matter what you had done. Second, there are times you could have done better if you’d done something differently.  Third, there are times when you did better than anyone else, and a different path would have produced worse results.  I try to learn from all of these situations.

I try to keep these “universal truths” in my mind in all situations.  All I can ever do is the best I can at any given time. Once I’ve done that, I need to accept the results and move on with my life, trying to improve when it is relevant and possible.

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