What if you could live your life over? - (6/21/2022)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Mr. Mack has been a long-time patient at the pharmacy. Today, he turns 85. "Happy birthday, Mr. Mack," said the pharmacist. "May you have dozens more!" "I'm surprised I am still alive," Mr. Mack laughed and replied. "If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!" "You are caring for yourself by taking your medications," said the pharmacist. "But tell me, since you've already lived a long life, what would you change if you could go back in time?"

"I would never have taken up *cough* smoking," said Mr. Mack. "My dad was a *cough* heavy smoker and died from heart disease in his late 40s. I started in high school and continued for *cough* over 50 years." He continued, "And then there is the matter of my three wives. If I knew my marriages would be that crazy, I would have turned queer from the beginning!"

That was a peculiar confession, thought the pharmacist. And it was one on which Mr. Mack did not elaborate. Nevertheless, life is full of choices. Being gay or straight is usually not a choice. It just is. However, being gay and masquerading as straight is a choice and often a frustrating one. But in a broader sense, we make decisions based on what we know at the time. Marriages and divorces. Births and abortions. Where to live, when to attend school, and what kind of job to take are choices that we make. Sometimes the decision is made for us. Example: We try heroin. We try booze. Both can take over our lives, changing our futures to their detriment. 

Regarding regrets, scientific studies have revealed what people wish they had – and had not – done. A University of Illinois analysis collected data from 11 studies involving over 3,000 participants. They chose their regrets from a dozen or so possible "life domains," which is a fancy way of saying, "I could kick myself if only I…". For what it's worth, this data compilation was gender-biased, with 73% of the participants being female. 
The analysis showed the main life domains that study participants would have changed if they could. A career transition was the number one category for change. For example: "I wish I had taken the promotion to be regional manager of that lingerie company." This was followed by a revision of one's education. To wit: "Instead of dropping out of college and marrying Brad – that weasel! – I should have finished my degree." Disappointments as to how one spent one's money was a popular category. "I never should have used my life savings to enroll in Trump University."

Mr. Mack spoke for many of us in terms of better health when he regretted smoking. And yes, many of us should have gotten that colonoscopy, that shingles vaccine, or had that mole checked for cancer. Then, there were reflections on parenting. "If I spent more time with my kids, they might have passed algebra – Nah!" Finally, romance qualms checked in. For instance, "I should have married Janet instead of Lenny. Sigh."  

Shoulda, woulda, coulda, right? What's the upshot? A wise person once said, "In the end, the only regrets we have are the chances we did not take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we took too long to make." But as the pharmacist told Mr. Mack, before you tighten the noose around your neck, know that you cannot spin the clock backward. Or can you? You can marry Janet. You can help your grandkids with their algebra. You can stop smoking. What you should not do is punish yourself. After all, life is brief. Long time dead. 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a recovering pharmacist and writer-in-residence at Rx-Press.

The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.


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