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I know it’s going to sound like a cop out, but I wouldn’t change one single part of my past. We want life to be like a Jenga tower where a person can pull one piece out but the structure remains intact. Alas, life is more like a Jenga tower where someone pulls one piece out and the entire thing comes toppling over, pieces flying everywhere, landing in somebody’s drink, almost poking an eye out. No single fault defines who I am or consumes me. I acknowledge my past and continue to grow as a person. I might not like things about me very much, but without them I would be someone different. I would have made different friends. I would write from a different perspective. I would not have gained the boundless support and unconditional love of my wife. I would not know her. It would be another story, and it would not be mine.
I read the book “The Reluctant Communist” several years ago, and the closing paragraph has always stuck with me. It was at the forefront of my mind from the second I started pondering the question of what I would change. It is the author’s response to people asking him if he would cross into North Korea again, given the chance.
“Everybody who asks me the question wants and expects my answer to be an immediate ‘No. I would never.’ But if I did not do what I did, I would not have my wife and girls, the three most important people in my life. So I always have to disappoint the people asking by saying that I made a mistake and much of the time was horrible, but I can’t say I would be willing to take it all back.”
– Charles Robert Jenkins
If he can live with going AWOL into North Korea, I can live with the mistakes that I have made. They are hopelessly connected to everything I have that is good.