What if is not your friend.
“What if” is that girl you knew in high school who pretended to be your best friend when it was just the two of you, but teased you mercilessly around all the other kids.
“What if” is the really cute pair of shoes that you found on sale and just had to have, but the minute you put them on, they rubbed your heels raw.
“What if” is a tiny monster hiding in the recesses of your brain, whispering that maybe you shouldn’t pursue your dreams, because something horrible will probably happen to you before then anyway.
Say it with me again: what if is not your friend.
Speaking as someone perpetually living in her head, I understand the appeal of thinking in possibilities. Countless times, I’ve wrapped those words around me like a blanket on a day where I was feeling anxious. They’ve held my hand when I’ve been sad and made me believe in things that never would occur. They’re constantly buzzing about my head, reminding me of all the positive things that could happen—all the negative things, too.
Dreaming of possibilities when it positively affects you is not a bad thing. By all means, imagine away if it helps you get closer to accomplishing your goals! But when you let “what if” move its slimy little body closer to your heart, you only invite his friends Anxiety and Disappointment to sleep on his couch for a while. Sure, they have their positive attributes, but for the most part, they’re not house guests you’ll want to keep around.
When it boils down to it, constructing your thoughts (and life) in abstract and hypothetical terms isn’t doing you any favors. Stressing yourself about issues that aren’t even real only hurts you and everyone who loves you in the long run.
“What if” is a great coping mechanism for situations you don’t want to face, as well as a fantastic way to drive yourself crazy when you’re scared, but please remember that better words deserve to live in your head.
Stop living a life that hasn’t happened yet and focus on today.
Say goodbye to “what if” and hello to here, now, and real.
Be kind to yourself.
And most importantly, remember that all we really have is today—we’re never promised another breath—so please stop worrying and just live.
Writer, editor, and storyteller living in the Twin Cities.