All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
Layin’ in the sun,
Talkin’ bout the things
They woulda-coulda-shoulda done…
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All ran away and hid
From one little did.
– Shel Silverstein
The year was 2009, I had spent a lovely day bumming around with my Aunt going to lunch, shopping at a bookstore and visiting my Papa. Our time together unfortunately was coming to a swift end and I needed to head home soon to get ready for my job working evenings at a tanning salon. We said our goodbyes to my Papa and hopped in the car so she could take me home. My Aunt was driving and I was sitting in the passenger seat. We made it to the first stop light of the neighborhood where we sat eagerly waiting for the light to turn green when BAM, we were rear-ended by the sweetest old lady who thought her brakes were the gas pedal while going down the hill. She slowly got out of the car and said “oh no, do you have groceries in your car too?” Bless her heart. At the time of impact my head hit the window and instead of heading to work I had the pleasure of spending the night in the hospital with a concussion. Besides a bad headache, some memory loss and a few days off work, I really was fine – which was why I was surprised to find a $10,000 check in the mail from the insurance company of the driver that hit us. (Still to this day I am not sure why I received that money. All of my hospitals bills were covered by my insurance and I didn’t file any claims.) That was the largest amount of money I had, and still to this day, ever received at one time.
Like the very smart and responsible 19 year old that I was, I immediately took that check and opened a second bank account with it so that I could pay off most of the $12,000 in student loans I had taken out for my associates degree. Once the check cleared my bank account, I quickly paid off $10,000 of my student loan balance. That left me with a balance of $2,000, which ended up totaling $20,000 once I took out $18,000 more in student loans for my bachelor degree. Since I just paid off $20,914.54 in student loans, I am now debt free.
Ha!! I have jokes. If you read my story, you know that’s not really how it went down.
With the very best of intentions, I did open that second bank account with the idea I would use that money to pay off $10,000 worth of my student loans. That part of the story is true. But, instead, I squandered it all away on “loans” to a family member and an ex-boyfriend, a week vacation to Destin with my best girlfriends, shopping, food and countless other extremely useless things that I have sense long forgotten about.
It has been many years since I made that huge mistake and spent the last penny of that money. I have learned so much in that time. Just recently, I did indeed pay off $20,914.54 in student loans – which leaves me with a balance of $10,810.50. Seeing that new balance is a milestone I have been looking forward to for months, but it also comes with a lot of “shoulda, woulda, coulda” thoughts. If, and if is the key word here, I used that $10,000 to pay off my student loans, I would be debt free right now. But, that is not the story I am able to write today.
I think we all have “shoulda, woulda, coulda” or “might-have-been” moments in our life we regret and sometimes wish we could do-over an event in our past. These moments seem to add up with every year we get older – in reading this I am sure at least one thing you wish you could change about your past comes to your mind. Those regrets can rob you of your sleep and cloud the really good moments of your present life. We can agonize over the past and fill ourselves with anxiety, stress, sadness and regret, but no matter where those thoughts take you, it is always pointed back to a time you can’t go back to. You can’t live there.
That is the problem with living in the past. No matter how much time we spend on wishing the past can be changed, you are helpless to alter it – but you can always alter the present and your future.
One of the things I do to get myself out of the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” mind frame is to embrace what I am doing now. I not only embrace it, but I take time to focus on things I am accomplishing or have accomplished. Instead of spending my time wishing I used that $10,000 for school, wishing I hadn’t bought all those clothes I never wore and wishing I had started saving earlier, I am mindful of my accomplishments today and how far I have come from I was my 19 year old self. If you spend time reflecting on your past, only use it to reflect the good, or take the bad moment and use it as a motivator to do better today.
I look at 26 year old Jessica and think about how freaking cool it is that I paid off my car in 6 months or that I paid off 10 loans and $20,914.54 in student loans in 10 months. When I find my mind going down a spiral of what ifs, this is the type of thoughts I try to focus on.
I am going to make a promise to myself to abandon the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” mind frame. I encourage you to as well. I want to spend my time focusing in the here and right now so I can pay attention things that really matter today, my goals in the future, not my mistakes in the past. Because in all honesty, we are always going to make mistakes now and then – be like my girl Taylor Swift and #shakeitoff.
You have the ability to shape and reshape your life as you choose to, but only in the now, in the present. “From one little did,” of starting to aggressively pay off my debt, I have changed today and my future, and that is worth more than any mistake I made in my past.
Has anyone else found themselves in the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” mind frame? Any helpful tips on getting out of that thinking?