What If and No Regrets
Inspired by a Robert Frost poem and kept awake by haunting memories of a past love, this week I began to entertain thoughts of ‘What If’s’. I usually live life by a rule of ‘No Regrets’ and a tiny van is not the place to have any. A sleepless night in the van is equivalent to a week in a padded room. This night, the tin-can became a tin-cell.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
What If I had never fully commited to van-life, and simply continued converting them for other people. Would I be better off financially, emotionally, physical?
What If I hadn’t divulged my innermost thoughts to my ex-boyfiend, would he have stayed and not been scared off?
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
What If I had a steady job and more disposable money, would he have been attracted to me?
What If I had stayed in London, would I be office-bound? Would I be breathing? Would I be happy?
What If I had studied more and worked harder at Uni, would attaining better grades have changed anything today? I doubt that.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
What If I’d installed parking sensors in the van. No, that’s not a What If; I don’t need those!
What If what I dreamed of as a child is what I should still be dreaming of now?
What If I’d decided to explore the coastline of the North East instead of the South West, would I be still be feeling like this, 400 miles away from him?
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
For me, the poem is perfect imagery of indecisiveness; something I often battle out of other people. As I constantly move, some people suggest it’s because I can never decide what I want or where I want to be. On a good day I’ll tell you I keep moving and exploring because I’m young and healthy, but on a bad day, I’ll tell you its because my head is in a spin, because being forced outside everyday is essential to keeping my head on, even if my brain isn’t working. Have you ever had your whole home shake to the beat of your trembling legs from the excitement of having the man you love text at 11pm? Have you ever wiped sponge-loads of condensation off your windows after a night of crying, convincing yourself its just your tears re-imagined in beautiful droplets on the glass framing the outdoors that will free you. Have you ever felt your heart beat through metal shell of your home on wheels when you realise you love so strongly and wonder when it'll kill you. The truth is, living in a van is the best for me, right now, good day or bad day, no regrets. Even if one day I settle into bricks, I know that these months or years in the tin-can forced me to confront parts of my mental health that simply wouldn’t have been allowed to surface had I’d been busy, financially successful, stable or office-based.
And, in the keeping with the theme of Ifs, I leave you with one of the nations favourites; If by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!