What I might have done but didn’t.
There were an infinity of things I might have done, might do now, and might do in the future.
Infinity is a very large but specific number; it isn’t unlimited. There are ten to the twenty-second power other star systems, most of them probably have planets, and probably there are vast numbers of them with inhabited planets that I could live on with some adaptations. But that infinity of things isn’t available to me now and never will be.
Only those actions need to be considered that are available to me on this planet Earth, and all the rest can be comfortably jettisoned. But, even with those limitations there is still a vast number of things I might have done and didn’t, quite a few things I might do right now, and probably a lot of things I might do in the not too distant future. Having turned 81 yesterday there are now limitations placed on me because of my physical and mental age, and limitations because of money, limitations because of physical location, and limitations because of social relationships. And, and yet, all things considered, there are a lot of things, an infinity of things I might do right now, in the near future, and in my redoing my relationships to the past.
The question now before me “What might I have done, but didn’t?” isn’t quite right. The real question would have to be – What might I have done in the conscious moments, moments when I really stopped to consider the long-term results my present decision would have on my future? That is, those moments when I knew that what I was about to do would have long-term meaning to me and to others. Those are the real moments, the moments where the question “What might I have done?” becomes meaningful. I pause and repeat the thought; I project my mind back to those times, those significant times, and think, what would probably have happened if I hadn’t made the decision that I did?
Some of these moments were comic – like the time a 17-year-old girl, Joan, who was a member of my primary social group at that time, showed up with her backpack at my place, and announced that she wanted to go with me. I had told my friends I was continuing my trip around the world on my motorcycle and was departing that morning at 10 AM. A couple of these friends showed up to wish me well, as did Joan, but she had her traveling pack. Yikes! She was 17, and I was 24. Not really too young for me, she was fully mature, and I did like her, so I argued with her for an hour about the difficulties that would bring to both of us.
It was late in the afternoon, and my rent was paid up until the end of the month, so I went to my favorite coffee shop, the Med, and hung out all day with our friends. Thus I didn’t depart and said I would leave the next day. I was all packed and Joan showed up with her stuff again, ready to go. Double yikes! This time, there weren’t any of our mutual friends to talk a little reason to us. It was totally up to us. What should we do? What should I do?
After an hour debating that question I decided to go to the Med again.
I stayed there all day again talking with my friends.
Joan later got a PhD in English lit from Cal Berkeley, got married to a mutual friend, had kids, etc., etc.
Years after that I gave her a puppy for her son.
It is impossible to know what would have happened if we had ridden off on my trip around the world on a motorcycle to have saved it from the H-bomb. Perhaps she or we would have written one of those great travel stories.
I’m still on that trip and like my friend Mark says about his life, “So far it’s working.”