The first three-card draw midway through my solitaire game looks like this :
I can play the 5 of clubs if I bring up the 5 of spades. That is the short-term move.
If I wait, however, until a black King shows up, I can place the Queen as well as the 4 of clubs. I can access all three cards.
In Solitaire, you can play a card that screams to be played, and win the game. You can also play a card that begs for a spot, and end up blocked, even though all signs might point to that being a logical move.
On the other hand, you can put a moratorium on that move, leave the card in its place, resist the temptation to snatch it from its spot, wait—and win the game. You can do the same thing, wait—and lose.
When did Solitaire become a metaphor for life? Our decisions bear an uncanny resemblance to the Solitaire dilemma. Our decisions direct us down particular pathways. No matter whether, all relevant information considered, we opt for the obvious move, or whether, as Robert Frost suggested, we take “the road less traveled by,” the decision will have “made all the difference.”
This pathway will impact every aspect of our being. Given the direction we choose, we will have different experiences, meet different people, integrate into different social groups, and shape a different career. As Frost says, “way leads on to way.” Our pathway will affect our friends, our choice of spouse, the children we bear (or not), the health we enjoy or the length of our lives. Yet, no matter how careful we are in weighing the options, risk and chance weave into even the most insightful choice.
Talking to reporters after his silver medal performance, Patrick Chan underlined the positives of his podium placement despite his disappointment at missing the gold medal. He is so grateful, he said, to the hockey coach who told him to do some figure skating before trying to play hockey. That coach sent Chan down a particular pathway. At the time, Chan had no way of knowing he would be a two-time Olympic medalist and three-time world champion. He took up figure skating because he wanted to play hockey. He learned that he liked to figure skate and he was very good at it. Along with hard work and success came celebrity, stress, and pressure. His life was channeled in a particular direction. Would celebrity, stress, and pressure have followed him in hockey, for example? Impossible to say. Also impossible to say whether his life would have been more or less satisfying had it taken a different turn. What impressed me is Chan’s gratitude for the pathway he chose, and the package that came with it.
Life doesn’t have an Undo button, like Solitaire or Word. We can’t use those features to repair any miscues or to predict what various options might look like before we choose. Lots of times, we are flying blind. Best, then, to congratulate ourselves on the pathways we have chosen, refuse to have regrets, and appreciate the journey.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost