Life without an Undo button
Updated: May 23, 2021
The first time I learnt how to use the computer two things fascinated me the most. The ‘backspace’ and the ‘undo’ function. No matter how many mistakes you made, no matter how many times you made a mess of thing you could set it right!! Just with a click of the mouse!! It made working so simple. I could write an entire page without having to worry about choosing the wrong word. If I did not like what I had written I could just ‘undo’. It was like having a magic wand.
Ever since then I have wondered what it would be like to have this magic wand in real life. To be able to just undo what you don’t like. From a bad haircut to a bad decision to a bad relationship. I could live life with no regrets. I could live my life without having to overthink and second guess every decision in life. If the plan did not go the way I wanted it to I could just undo the whole thing and start over again. Life would be so ideal, so perfect. All of us would be so happy and content.
However something just undid my brilliant thought process. What if I had a brilliant experience? Something that I would cherish forever but someone undid the whole thing because they did not like it or did not enjoy it. My happiness, my fun would just disappear with a click. Or my clicking the ‘undo’ button would do that to someone else, undo his/ her cherished work.
All of us have had experiences in life which we wish to undo. I have had many people tell me how they wished they could undo an experience and start all over again. We all wish to have another chance at doing thing, doing them differently, making another choice or not doing something at all.
I recently told someone I regretted going for a particular seminar. I thought it was a waste of time and I particularly did not agree with what was being discussed there. I could have used that time doing something much more important. Then we got talking about how I met people at the seminar who gave a different perspective on things I was working on. Their opinion helped me understand my work a lot differently and I could move ahead with what looked like an impossible task. What would have happened had I undone the whole seminar? I would have also lost out on those valuable insights that came with it.
Seemingly bad decisions, unnecessary bad experiences and toxic relationships. We all want to get rid of them. Turn the clock back and start all over again. But how do we know the new start would lead to better consequences. The decisions that we made at one point were based on the experiences and knowledge we had then. The choices we made seemed best at that point in time based on the information we had.
So where did this information come from? From what we had experienced in the past, from what we had observed from others in the past. If all of us would keep undoing our experiences because they did not match what we wanted where would all this information come from?
Carl Jung spoke of ‘The Collective Unconscious’ which we have within all of us. It stores the memories and experiences of the collective humankind and helps us form our own experiences. We have often at time of great turmoil found answers within us that have helped us deal with problems in our life. Whether they came from the collective unconscious or from our own repertoire of what we have seen and experienced, we all have found solutions which we could not have, had we not made those bad decisions.
Every act of ours has some bearing in what we become as a person. Every single unnoticed experience equips us with adapting to the world around us. There are times that we mess up and the whole experience seem futile. Often we believe that nothing good came out of all the pain that we had to go through. But just because we do not see its lesson at that point of time does not mean that it does not exist.
I know a young girl who lost her father at a very young age and suffered at the hands of her relatives. Her entire childhood was one bad experience after another. She often felt the need to undo her entire past. The more she spoke about her childhood, the more she realised the part it played in shaping her into the woman she is today. Her strength to fight when odds are against her, her ability to accept people without judging them and her desire to prove herself came from those experiences. Today she realises that if she did manage to undo her entire childhood she may not be the person she is today because each of those taught her a way of life which she would otherwise may not have learnt.
A young boy who was bullied as a child for his inability to perform sports activities today runs a successful fitness centre. He agrees that it was his negative experiences that gave him the courage to choose a different career path. Had he had an option to undo the bullying he would have never realised the importance of physical fitness and continued with his unhealthy life style.
A young woman who lost her husband learnt to become a lot more independent than she thought she was capable of. A young man dealing with a bad break up today knows how important it is to give his partner time and importance. A businessman who suffered major loses now knows how to make back up plans.
I once played a game where you had to one by one remove blocks from a pile making sure that the pile would not collapse. You never knew pulling out which piece of block would make the entire pile collapse. Sometimes the easiest looking, most irrelevant piece would cause the collapse. Sometimes the blocks were so placed that removing one would dislodge many more ultimately causing the whole pile to collapse.
That is how life is. A huge pile of blocks. All our experiences stacked one over the other, haphazardly. Each piece has its own place, its own role in keeping the pile together.
The reason life does not have an undo button is because we are not computers. We are humans. We are meant to make mistakes which cannot be set right. We are meant to learn from the mess we make. After all that is why we made the computer and not the other way round.