Life is a Trade-Off.

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I knew it was coming.

It had to.

That special wistfulness of times past, the knowledge that this was really the last time, and there would be no more after this.

The romanticized versions in my head that ignored all of the frustrations, discouragements, and feelings of helplessness of the past two years.

I never thought I’d be here. I’d already thought that I’d never miss it; that when I hear of a game this weekend, I’d chuckle at how much I hated sacrificing my entire Saturday to do something I didn’t even like: watching football. And that I’d remember how much I loathed getting up early and ending up sick and voiceless the next day.

But it’s the school songs that get me. The ones I know with my heart and not my hands or lips. The ones that simply tumble out with the ictus of the drum major’s hands, through me.

Was it a family, but I just didn’t notice or partake? Could I have made a difference if only I didn’t believe that I was powerless? If only I didn’t listen to the wrong voices? If only I’d opened my eyes to the people who actually cared and wanted to see a change?

Did I waste my time and my potential by giving up and going through the motions–by acting sullen when I could have done much better by offering a cheerful spirit?

Oh, how I wish I could return. I feel a terrible debt to them, because I could have given so much more if only I had remained hopeful and persistent.

But regardless of my regret, my pride that makes me want to prove myself, or the what-ifs that swirl in my head, I’ve already made the choice. And now I must live with it. I must justify it…make myself certain that I chose rightly. For that is the human way.

Life is a trade-off. Time is a commodity, a scarce resource. In order for me to choose to capture one opportunity, I must give up another opportunity that I have never experienced, or one that I’ve had previously. I’m still not sure which is worse: the torture of not knowing what could have been, or giving up that which you already know. Perhaps it is both intertwined that torment me so.

When the mind and the heart are at odds, who is to say who should win? But the heart shouldn’t always win, and neither should the mind. One who only follows his heart may find himself in a sea of aloof impracticality, and one who only follows his mind builds walls that forget about feeling.

In this, I have chosen the mind: I must do what I must. For my education, for my marriage, for my health. And I must have faith that there are greater things waiting for me. I must trust God to “make all things work together for the good of those who love him.” And above all, I must make peace with myself.

I’ll  allow myself the luxury of sadness now, so it won’t tear me down in the months to come.

Perhaps I’ll entertain the bitter memories to prevent the nostalgia. Or perhaps I’ll preserve only the good ones, that I may have lovely thoughts to look back upon.

Either way, I know this:

I will continue.

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