Photo credit: Brian L. Tice Jr.
”Imagine if we stayed together…”
They say that hindsight is 20/20 and that too much time spent thinking of the choices we could have made rather than accepting those we did make will only lead to ruin. Still, the human brain loves to encourage the game of ‘what if,’ and most of us are too weak to argue. We long to know every outcome, to know for sure that we did what was best when push came to shove, even if it means we or someone else lies awake at night soothing a broken heart.
But that’s not how life works, and even if it were, we would probably be just as miserable as we are not knowing. That is due to the fact we are the architects of our regret. We build mountains out of singular moments, sometimes single sentences, and we allow ourselves to believe those instances of uncertainty are all that defines us in life. We seek to see greener pastures because we grow frustrated with the way life is as if any other timeline would somehow be free from the burden of hurt. Deep down we know such an existence is impossible, but still, we long for a day when that isn’t the case.
Hodera has made a career out of taking the feelings expressed above and dissecting them through song. The band, whose members hail from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, has spent the better part of the past decade taking the moments in life where time stand still and transcribing them to a song. Hodera’s material reads like the diaries of people who spend too much time in their heads recounting every action they took on nights they wish they could have made last forever. It’s a collection of the highest highs and lowest lows one can experience, with each heartbeat wrung out like a rag holding water to ensure every last drop of nuance spills onto the page where their music is born.
“For The Best,” Hodera’s latest single, is a slight exception to this tradition because the moments described never actually happened. The track plays like the conversation one has with themselves late at night while reflecting on the person that got away. Vocalist Matthew Smith ponders what could have been if he and a former flame made the decision to stay together, or if he had been able to clear the chaos from his head that now, at least in some small way, seems like the catalyst to his loneliness. A melody played on electric guitar softly accompanies these thoughts, which build to more specific instances where he questions what might have been, but it soon takes center stage as Smith catches himself wishing for things he never wanted.
“Would you have given up everything to move back to New Jersey,” he asks as the music begins to build, “I wouldn’t have let you, even if you tried to. I wouldn’t have let you throw it all away.”
Realizing he could never have asked that of the person he loved, Smith soon turns the tables to ask what he could have done to save what they once had. Should he have given up on his friends and his band to follow someone across the country? Would Smith feel better now if he had given up everything he’d ever known to take a chance on someone he once loved in a manner that no one since has been able to duplicate? Where would he be if he had?
Hodera ultimately comes to the conclusion that we all reach in time, which is that he can only know the truth of the path he is on at this moment. Maybe things would have worked out, but maybe not. Perhaps he could have been happy with that life, but can he honestly say it would be any better than how he feels on the best days in the life he leads now? The answer is no, and he knows that. He sometimes forgets, but so do all of us when we are at our weakest. We want so very badly to have everything we yearn for in life that we often question if exchanging one for another would bring us closer to the happiness and peace we ultimately seek.
Furthermore, “For The Best” also speaks to the understanding that changing your path would have irrevocably changed that of your former lover as well. To claim anything other than the present would be better is to assume the other person in your fantasy feels similarly about their life. Had Smith given up everything for this person, for example, they may have felt added pressure to make things work in their relationship, even if that person initially wanted out. One decision can change everything, not just for you, but for everyone around you as well. Being aware of that fact, we must recognize that the choices we make we do so because they are the best options we have at the moment when a decision is necessary. We can’t control what will or will not happen, nor should we allow ourselves to get lost in the ‘what if’ of it all. We merely make choices, learn from them, and (hopefully) grow.
The only reason any of us should look back on the paths not followed is to appreciate how profoundly unique the ones we travel are to us and our lives. Had you made any other decisions in your life than the ones you have then the person you know yourself as might not exist. We might not always like who we are right now, but as Hodera make clear with this song, it’s important to remember there is no guarantee any other path would have made you feel more content in life. The struggle we face is one of acceptance, both of ourselves and the person we are becoming with every choice we make. We can’t go back, so we must press forward with the understanding that each decision we make informs what comes next, and we must love ourselves through it all.