Hindsight: Is It 20/20 Back There?

In a word: Hindsight

It is said hindsight is 20/20. I knew it all along. This is a common phrase. If it is 20/20, as in good vision, then would it not be nice to be able do something about it? Time travel? Get a “redo” or something? Sigh. We cannot, but if we take the road not taken, we will always wonder and second guess our decisions.

Hindsight is a word which basically means the perception or understanding of past events. The word has two other familiar words in it as can be seen. It contains the words hind, as in “located at” the back, and sight, the act or ability of seeing. Together, we see it come together as a retrospective analysis of the past. More information, if you care to look it up, can be found at theFreeDictionary.com. You could just Google it.

Now, add “20/20,” as in vision, to our word, and it all becomes clearer. Clear as a rain. I can see it now.

I started thinking about this while sifting through some old poetry and writings of mine. As I read I remembered how I felt while writing this or that, and then I thought about how my life is at the moment. At this point I wondered where I could have made all the right changes or chose the different paths. We all do it. Whether your life is good or bad or happy or sad, just think about all of the roads you have not taken and where they could have taken you.

I started reading more poetry recently. When thinking about this word “hindsight,” I read more. Then I came across one of my favourite poems called “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. If you have not read it, then you probably have been living under a rock your whole life or simply do not read much poetry. You should read it. I read it over and over as a child and young man, but as I look back, I really did not ever read it. After thinking about my life and those people in my life, I came to a realization that this is poem is about everyone who has ever questioned their choices.

Frost’s poem is about a person standing at a fork in a road. We all have been there in one way or another. The person was a traveler. The traveler considered his options, both of which were about the same, but the person chose one path over the other thinking the other could be taken another day. After taking the path, the traveler thought this choice may be questioned some day. This person thought the choice may be thought of differently, and later in hindsight, the other path may have brought a different ending. In the end “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference” the traveler said.

It is not a happy poem. It is, just as the traveler, somewhere in the middle in regards to emotion. The “sigh,” maybe the doubt, the questioning of how we all feel about something in our lives at one point or another. It is a questioning of choices and how life would be different. It could have been better if another path was taken or it could have been worse. We will never know, but hindsight is 20/20.

Sigh. I wonder what could have happened if I had taken the other path.  I have definitely made some mistakes. Lost loves, lost time, and other things lost. Sometimes after making a decision I say “I knew it!” as if I had some way of telling the future at the time but did not act. Of course I had no idea. I wondered why I did not act on it at the time if I was in the present certain my past self knew the path was wrong. I looked it up. This is called hindsight bias, and many people feel this way according to a 2012 article on Psychology Today’s website. I love Psychology Today. It helps me understand myself and my brain.

The brain plays some funny tricks on us, and in hindsight, the paths I have taken have made the differences in my life. In hindsight, we all could have taken a different path which could have been better, but would we be the same person? No. Our experiences make us and forms our brains (PsychologyToday.com). Our geography, culture, the paths we take, and all the experiences which come from these shape us and our brains. These paths make the brain connect in the way it does and help us understand different ideas in the way we do.

I wonder sometimes about it all. Where could I be if I had taken another road. I don’t know. Hindsight, understanding our past, is important. Our history shapes who we are and understanding it can help us shape who we become. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We must know our history and understand it so we do not keep making mistakes at every fork in the road.

Sigh. I still wonder about my path. What is behind us is done and cannot be changed. Sometimes it can be mended, but overall, we live with our choices. The road not taken may be the better path. We may never know. Life is what we make of it, and the path we take makes all the difference. Sigh. In a word hindsight is helpful for our future, but even if it is 20/20 it is still behind us.

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