Monday, November 12, 2012

A Closer Look Into Hindsight

Recently, someone told me that hindsight is 20-20.  I've heard this saying plenty of times before, but the more I thought about it, the more I disagreed with it.  Hindsight is not 20-20; it is murky and often blind as a naked mole rat.  (Yes, I like rodents better than bats.)  And like a naked mole rat living underground, there are infinite routes and tunnels it my choose to follow.
Death by dragons or dinos?  Choose!
Am I getting too metaphorical for you?
When I was little, I loved reading those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books.  However, I hated making decisions on which story line to pursue.  Whenever I came to a fork-in-the-road page, I'd flag it with a scrap of paper so I could come back and follow the other choice later.  It took me forever to read those books, and the pages were bursting with paper scraps by the time I was done.  I just needed to know the outcome of every option the writers put in there.  (This probably says a lot about me, no?)  
I think hindsight is more like this: a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book, only in real life you can't go back to follow those other paths.  (Or naked mole rat tunnels.  I'll let you choose your favorite metaphor.)
This conundrum has been weighing on my mind recently.  I've always been interested in writing and art--in wanting to become an author or illustrator. (Or both!)  When I was in college, I made the tough decision not to pursue a minor in art.  I won't get into the complications that led to that decision, but the result was that I shut off the "art" part of my brain, and drove my passions into the world of creative writing instead.  I put away my sketchbook for over half a decade, threw myself into my writing classes, and chased after my dream of becoming a published author.  And that was that.   
If you've been following my blog, then you know I've slowly been getting back into my art over the last year.  In many ways this has made me happy; in others, not so much.  I'll openly admit that at the ripe ol' age of 26, I'm not at the artistic level I'd like to be. Recent workshops I've attended have made me regret my no-art-minor decision, resulting in my current lack of a solid art foundation.  I practice and learn with each new piece, but sometimes I wonder what a class on color theory or composition would have done for my current work.  And while I adore the deviantArt community I've joined, I'm often struck dumb by artists half my age who exhibit talents and skills WAY beyond my own.  They inspire me, amaze me, but humble and sadden me, too, forcing my thoughts to sixteen-year-old Kathryn and a million unanswered "What If's."
While a part of me kicks myself for my past decision, the other part looks back and sees that book full of countless paths and paper scraps.  My decisions have led me to where I am today, but would I prefer the outcomes of another path?  I'm not so sure. 
Let's say I chose that art-minor in college.  Would the hours I spent dreaming of Ellis and Bannock in my dorm room been replaced by dreams of picture books instead?  Would the time I spent honing my writing craft been spent sketching and painting?  Would the drive that pushed me to draft my first novel been funneled into artistic pursuits?  
And that's just during college.  Afterward?  What if I'd attended illustrator sessions instead of writing ones at conferences?  Would I have missed the gems of advice that strengthened my writing skills?  And my time at home?  Would I have tirelessly pursued The Beast of Bannock if my hours were split between art and writing?  Would I have experienced every rejection, every workshop, every revision, and every encouragement that's molded me into the writer and person I am today?  Would I still have found the strength to open my heart beyond Bannock and tell the story of a scrappy pirate ferret, too?
I don't know--and of course, I never will.  Maybe if I'd pursued art, the two interests would have fused into a super-passion, making me a better person than I am today.  Or maybe Ellis and Tentacles and all my characters I love so dearly would just be ideas pushed away to the back of my mind.  That thought is overwhelmingly terrible.  But deep down, a part of me thinks it would probably be true.
And this is why 20-20 hindsight is full of baloney.  There are no black and white answers when dealing with the past.  Do I currently wish I was better artist?  Yes.  But when it all comes down to it, would I potentially swap all I've achieved as a writer to become that better artist?  No.  N-O!  I don't know where that "Choose Your Own Adventure" choice would have led.  I could have become a prisoner in a medieval dungeon, or a hostage to aliens, or a writer that never wrote a book.  And that is an outcome I never want to see.
I may not be able to paint like this....
...But at least I have them.  :)
So why have I subjected you to my wistful ramblings?  Because I'm guessing that at some point in your life, you've felt this way, too.  Your past regret could be related to anything, from a job offer you declined to a conference you skipped, or something as simple as a crush you never asked out.  Maybe it would have changed your life; maybe it wouldn't have mattered one bit in influencing the cosmos.  But if the past and regrets haunt you at night, I hope you take comfort in this: 
Don't think about what might have been.  Think about what might NOT have been.
I might be nuts, but it helps me sleep better at night.  :)
So where will I go from here?  I've always felt like the little engine that could, so all I can do is keep chugging along, striving for improvement.  Maybe I'll take some art classes, maybe I'll go back to school for a second degree, or maybe I'll find myself in the middle of an adventure where giant naked mole rats are trying to eat me.
But those are choices for another day.
Note: Image of "Choose Your Own Adventure" book is from Wikipedia.  The painting is "Whistlejacket" by Geroge Stubbs, also from Wikipedia.


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! I hoped it would be something a lot of readers could relate to. (Especially us 90's kids who grew up with "Choose Your Own Adventures" glued to our hands!)