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What Might Have Been

October 22, 2010   •   By Master Hobbit

Posted under: Mind, Spirit, Career, Finances, Lifestyle, Relationships


What Might Have Been

John Greenleaf Whittier in the poem, Maud Muller, wrote:



'For of all sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: "It might have been!"'


Now being a kid from rural Nebraska, I’d never read this poem, though I had heard this particular quote before. 


The poem came up in an email exchange I had recently with a friend and somewhere along the line my friend made a statement that sounded like regret to me, which provoked me to further thought and a response. 


Now last week I wrote about regret, regret that related to choices made as opposed to regret for missed opportunities or choices not taken.  This week is about regrets of the latter kind.


Regret, I suppose, is the response of the heart to ‘what might have been,’ or ‘if only I had done…..’ this or that, or ‘I wish I had the chance to…’ whatever. Pick the phrase that suits you, the one that speaks to choices you wish you’d have made or the opportunities you wished you had taken.


Now, granted, some wishes you can’t do anything about.  Things like words you wish you had spoken to your parents before they passed away, or that you had married that gal from twenty years ago, but who now has been married for 15 years and has three kids, or investing in Google as a start up.  I mean, there are just certain choices, which cannot be recaptured.


But there are others that are not in that category.  They require one to simply decide to do them.  Decide to go pick it up and do it!  It could be that hobby not pursued, that trip never taken, that relationship left hanging, or that yearning unattended.


If there was one thing to be gained from the movie The Bucket List, it was that we aren’t getting any younger, and if we don’t take action soon, all those ‘might have beens’ will remain forever only regrets.


So, what holds us back?  Fear?  Laziness?  Some odd resignation to our ‘lot’ in life?  What?


Maud Miller was a beautiful poem about a man and woman, strangers, who happened to cross paths at a moment in time.  There was a strong connection felt by each toward the other in that brief moment, as if they were meant for each other. The moment passed and they had done nothing about that feeling, and life took its course until all they had was the memory of what might have been. So sad. (read it here)


In the case of my friend, the missed opportunity was still there to be taken.  I told my friend that Maud Miller could be a warning, or a prophecy.  The friend has yet to reply to my observation.


'For of all glad words of tongue or pen,

The gladdest are these: "Might-have happened for him!"'


Let’s rewrite our history, by today's choices.

Read More About: legacy life purpose decisions regret

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About the Author: Master Hobbit

Master Hobbit is the creator of 4060men. After a marriage of over 30 years ended in divorce, he journeyed for over 5 years as a single midlife man. He remarried in 2012. He is also the owner of the blog platform,, and a blog platform review site,

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