Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

‘Woulda, coulda, shoulda’ the lament of lost or missed opportunity, the cry when life and or circumstances don’t seem fair, a good place to place the blame when all else fails.  Most of us know the famous scene with Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront where he tells with such pathos how his friend Charley has failed him and cheated him from becoming somebody.

Sometimes, even when we know better, we just want to complain.  We want to tell the story of how we were cheated of what was rightfully ours, or how if we’d only followed our intuition, or took action rather than waited.  How about this perpetual favorite: if I only knew then what I know now.  Makes your heart flutter, doesn’t it?  Lately I’ve felt like bemoaning some missed opportunities.  Here are a few I dredge up from time to time.

I went to San Francisco State in 1965.  In 1966 I had an early morning class on Friday.  My first stop upon arriving at school was to go to the Student Union.  Standing in front of the doors was a woman handing out original posters for The Fillmore Auditorium for free.  I always took one.  Since wall decoration was in short supply for poor college students they were my art.  I hung them on my walls, stuck with thumbtacks.  The first poster I collected was called ‘The Laugh In’.  It had a face of four different people in each corner.  It didn’t have the psychedelic art of the ones that came after but it was the first poster.  I had one of Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane before Grace Slick, and several others.  But my lifestyle in those days was mobile and light, and after a few years and many moves I threw the posters away.  It never dawn on me that they might be valuable one day.  I ‘shoulda‘ known.   If I had those posters now they would be worth a lot of money.  I could use some extra money right now.

When my daughter was about one my mother decided to move permanently to Australia to live with her daughter, my sister, Marsha.  Anything she wasn’t taking would go into storage.  If there were items my brother and I wanted we should make plans to get them.  There were a few chairs and a love seat that I wanted.  The chairs had belonged to my birth mother and had sentimental value for me.  The love seat was just a fine antique.  My brother upon returning to Texas rented a U Haul and soon returned to San Diego to get the things he wanted.  I, on the other hand, was overwhelmed with an infant, a teenager, a house guest from Tibet and life in general.  I thought I had time.  A year or so later I was ready.  What I learned was that my mom had not continued paying for the storage space and anything left in it had gone for auction.  I was devastated.  Why hadn’t anyone told me this was happening and an auction was imminent?  It took me years to get over the loss, the anger and betrayal I felt.  I’d been cheated!  If I ‘woulda‘ known I ‘coulda‘ got it.  I ‘shoulda‘ acted rather than wait.  What a scenario for beating myself up.  Here’s an opportunity for self empathy.  I could use some self empathy right now.

In 2003 my dad’s estate dispersed and I inherited some money.  It wasn’t gobs but enough that I knew I should make a wise investment.  I talked to several people but nothing seemed like a good idea.  I wanted to buy gold with part of it but didn’t really pursue how to do this.  I invested the money in other ways.  Gold has gone up a bunch since then.  That would have been a smart decision.  ‘If I’d only know then what I know now‘.  I’d like to think I might retire in the next 10 years but life seems to eat up my savings.  Sometimes I imagine I’ll work so long that one day I’ll just fall over.  I could use a retirement fund right now.

There you have it, my ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda‘.  I find this an interesting contemplation.  What triggers these thoughts?  Is it just an indulgence, self pity?  Someone I know hurt their lower back and a friend asked them to think about what that might mean.  Upon reflection she said,”Oh, I’d like some support”.  I’m going to do the same.  I’m going to think about what my ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ means.  I suspect I would like some support now too.

Want to share your ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’?


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Christine on March 9, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Right now at this moment as I explore my unemployment and unemployment option, again I wish I “coulda” gotten my Masters of Library Science degree – why didn’t I? I felt…and still feel that it was all I could do to get a college degree…in anything and I took the path of least resistance and got a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation Administration. I had a lot of parental expectations, but little or no parental emotional or financial support. We lived way out in the country – there was no public transportation, it was 10 miles to town. I was expected to go to college, how I was to get there, how I was to pay for it – I was on my own for the most part. For high school graduation my parents bought me a bicycle – it was only four plus miles to the college but straight up and over the canyon ridge which seemed impossible to me in the hot and cold weather of the Sacramento Valley. So I begged and borrowed rides to school and worked my way through college in the college library. If I “coulda” gotten my MLS degree, maybe I “woulda” have a job today, I “shoulda” been a stronger person and stood up for myself as a member of my family, but you did not do that in my family. You did what you were told, kept quiet and stayed out of the way. Yes, there are times the lack of communication, love and support still rankles, however I see that as a barnacle on my road to living and life.

    I try for the most part not to look back, but to “accept what is as tho I have chosen it” – some moments easier than others. It “woulda” be easy to want to have more support so that I “coulda” done something different and maybe I “shoulda” asked for more love and caring. And frankly, there are days, like today, when I struggle mightily to figure out what I want to be and do when I grow up, that what I could use is a hug … and a job.


  2. Posted by Pancho Villa on March 10, 2010 at 7:58 am

    We all can relate, Linda. Thanks for putting it so eloquently. Victim mentality. Can’t wait for your next post, wise Sage.


  3. A leadership coach recently gave one of the best quotes ever during a preventing procrastination seminar. “Don’t should all over yourself.”
    I too regret letting go of some valuable and sentimental things. On the contrary, I never end a conversation with loved ones without saying “I love you” first.
    Thanks for sharing.


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