Is Hindsight Really Always 20/20?

It’s easy to look back on the past and see things we didn’t notice at the time.  With so much wisdom we feel qualified to judge ourselves and challenge why we made certain choices– as if we should have known better.  So I have to ask: is hindsight always 20/20?  Are we really seeing more clearly, or is it just a way we skew things to prove to ourselves that we are smarter than we were before; as if that will justify any mistakes we may have made?  I don’t know the answer, but I suddenly feel pretty qualified to look back on applying to dental school and recognize the signs that I wasn’t entirely sure about this future I was planning.

Or maybe they weren’t signs?  I mean, who is always 100% confident with the huge choices they make in life.  Heck, I have trouble deciding what to make for dinner most nights, and I question whether I should have booked that trip to New Orleans or not.  So it’s no surprise I’ll probably question my career choice for the rest of my life the next few weeks.

Was I ignoring the not-so-subtle signs, or was I just being who I am?

When I applied to dental school, I hadn’t ever worked in a dental office, so I didn’t really know what it was like.  I had only observed dentists in their practices and interviewed them to learn about what it was like to be a dentist.  Of course, they all told me how great it was.  Either that, or I selectively listened for what I wanted to hear… and I missed learning about some of the harsh realities.  Thanks to my well-honed skills of selective hearing and selective memory, I’ll never really know how it all went down.  But in those days, I was much more interested in doing other things with my time.  (A sign, maybe?)  I figured, why immerse myself in dentistry when I was going to be buried in it my whole life?  What’s the rush?  Here’s where that hindsight kicks in: it probably would have been good to experience a little more firsthand.

But I won’t look back on that with judgment.  It is what it is.

I do think a few of the dental schools were concerned by my lack of exposure.  I left those interviews questioning whether I wanted to do this or not.  (Another sign, maybe?)  Ironically, or not so, I didn’t get accepted to either of those schools.  They must have seen something that I didn’t.  There was one interview that went well though.  I felt as if they were getting to know me, not just the amount of dental experience I was able to show on paper.  I left feeling like dentistry was a good choice for me, like I could be a part of a great community.  They must have felt the same way because I got in.

I’ll never forget a restlessness that was growing inside of me though.  It starting brewing my senior year of college.  I had this idea that when I looked at my life and saw myself going to high school, then straight to college, immediately followed by dental school, and then a lifetime of being a dentist, with my 2.4 kids and white picket fence; something felt empty.  (Yet another sign?)  It seemed that this “me” would be so mundane.  I had this idea that I didn’t want my life to be so planned and calculated.  I wanted some excitement.  I wanted to be interested and interesting.

So instead of going to dental school, I went to Spain.

I made a promise to my mother:

Yes mom, I promise it will be only 1 year, and then I will go to dental school.

She was gracious enough to help me get to Spain.  The least I could do was agree to follow through for her, and I’ve always been someone who upholds my commitments.  I was lucky that Baylor understood.  After I was accepted to dental school I sent them a letter asking this:

I was a Spanish major in college, and I would like to further pursue my studies in Spanish.  I am requesting to defer admission for 1 year so I can live abroad in Spain and accomplish that goal.

The plan worked, and they accepted my proposal to defer admission for 1 year.  While my explanation was honest, it wasn’t entirely true.  I wanted to become fluent in Spanish, but I also wanted an adventure that expanded my world beyond what I already knew.  I admired Baylor for their decision because I believe it showed their respect for the value of higher education, diversity, and life experience.

Were those some early signs that I was pushing myself into a life I didn’t really see for myself?

I’m sure the answer is yes, but it doesn’t matter.  I could easily re-tell the same story highlighting the signs that pulled me into a career that was my true calling.  And I’m not the type to look back and regret the choices I’ve made or wonder “what if.”  The way I see it, the process I had to go through brought me to this day.  Without that, who knows where I would be.

When I wrote the first draft of this post, I came to this conclusion:  Yes, I’m comfortable settling on the belief that hindsight is always 20/20… and so what?

After writing the final draft, I’ve actually convinced myself that 20/20 hindsight is more likely to be a contrived clarity that we create for our own convenience.  Because for me, it’s easier to accept that I made the right decision to leave dentistry if I can prove to myself that it is what I wanted all along.  As I mentioned before, I could have chosen to focus on different signs, the signs that ultimately led me into the field.  And even then I probably would have said that hindsight is always 20/20.

On another note, now has a Facebook page!  Like me, and it’s another great way to stay in touch!  Thanks for coming along for the ride.  It’s making the process so much more fun and fulfilling for me.


15 thoughts on “Is Hindsight Really Always 20/20?

  1. Hi,
    Whatever you feel is right for you that is where you should go, if you have taken the wrong path, you turn around and go in a different direction, I wish you all the best in whatever comes your way. 🙂

  2. I don’t think hindsight is necessarily to justify anything, it’s to reflect on choices after the consequences have manifested. But it’s each choice we make that defines our path and reflecting (not obsessing or regretting) on those very choices gives us food for thought on our future choices. And the ‘mistakes’ we make…well, that’s how we learn best, don’t we?

    Often these mistakes lead to bigger and better..and truer-to-self..things. You are here NOW being who you are, with courage to make changes from your past. Enter Spain, career change. Enter lolabees.

    1. Love it! Thanks, Ritu. Well said. It took me a long time to write this post because there were so many different directions I could have taken it. Your comment so eloquently captured yet another way of looking at it! Thanks!

  3. I feel you, guapa. I am at a bit of a cross-roads with life, too, and am looking back on the whole thing (sobre todo mirando atras hacia España). Early mid-life crisis for me, maybe (er… okay, maybe not so early). :-p Wondering, myself, how I got here to where I am, and if this was really what I wanted all along, or just convinced myself I wanted. Hard to resist the call of the wild world out there for people like us. Regardless, me alegro que tomaste esa decision de pasar ese año en Madrid, y de hablar con una desconocida total (yo) en el avion para pedir consejos!

    1. Wow, Julie! We need to talk! I read through my journal from that year and found some pretty funny stuff. It was great to reminisce and would love to share it with you! I still wonder how many hours and tears it would have been before I found my hostel on that first day had it not been for you!

  4. I think the whole hindsight thing is just a trick we use on ourselves. We use it to justify correct and incorrect decisions all the time when the question is not worth asking. We make decisions because we are human and because we are human we error in our decisions. That “flaw” is the best part of life.

  5. The only thing that makes hindsight more clear, is the fact that we are living in the consequence of the past (not trying to sound like Yoda). I think it’s true, more often that not, that if we could go back, we would simply repeat the same mistakes; however, this time we would try to avoid the negative consequences and indulge in the positive ones.
    It really seems to me like you’re right where you want to be, but feel like you may have missed out on some fun while getting there. I believe that if it hadn’t been for the time that you spent adhering to all the standards of perfect statistics then you wouldn’t be where you are today.
    I too am right where I want to be in life. The path I chose was over at the other end of the spectrum. I’ll not go all into it, but the point is that if hindsight is 20/20 then we should be able to see that without every decision that we made up to this point, we wouldn’t be at the desirable places where we are today.

    Is this at all applicable? I was really going somewhere with all of this, but it was getting way too lengthy. This is the whittled down edited version, but hopefully it is still coherent.

  6. It’s totally applicable, and actually makes me laugh because I too had so much to say about the whole thing. In fact, I was confusing myself at times while trying to write the post, and it took me forever to settle on a final draft. It ended up going in the direction it did– just like all of the other paths I’ve chosen to follow in life. So in hindsight, I think it unfolded the way it was supposed to 😉 Funny how it all works out and we eventually end up where we want to be.

    Sounds like you could make a great post about the topic??? Thanks, Yoda 😉

  7. You have no idea how much I have been thinking about the same things that you have been posting about lately and so I am really enjoying what you have been writing. Also, I enjoy your blog very much so I nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award! The details are on my blog. 🙂

    1. Wow! Thank you so much, VAC! I’m so glad you’ve connected with what I’ve said! And thank you so much for the shout out! Am I breaking the rules if I nominate you right back? 😉

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