Sep 16, 2012

Regrets, I Have More Than a Few

I cringe every time I hear someone claim they have no regrets. I wonder, “Are they that flawless a person? Are they deeply in denial? Have they discovered the secret to accepting their mistakes and moving on, and if that’s the case, would they mind sharing it with me?"

I understand that some people reach a point in their lives where they have found happiness, success, enlightenment, and they view their past as a convoluted but necessary path that brought them to that place. My life isn’t perfect—I’m still waiting for greater professional success and personal enlightenment, and I struggle to be a better mother, wife, friend—but for the first time in many years, I’m happy with my little place in the world, and I realize that if I had made different choices, I might not be able to say that. Yet I don’t believe I will ever be able to say I have no regrets.

A list of lingering regrets, incomplete and in no particular order:
  • I regret losing interest in my beloved horse, Darby, when I discovered boys.
  • I regret forgetting to dance with my father at my (first) wedding.
  • I regret hurting people, deliberately or unintentionally. Every single one of them.
  • I regret wasting two years of college drinking and chasing boys.
  • I regret not spending more time with my brother.
  • I regret that awful perm and makeup during the eighties.
  • I regret not visiting my grandfather just weeks before he died.
  • I regret the hundreds of times I could have said, “I love you,” but didn’t.
  • I regret worrying about what other people think of my appearance. (I’m still working on that.)
  • I regret all the time and money I spent on clothes and home d├ęcor, trying to impress people.
  • I regret the times I made an ass of myself when drunk.
  • I regret that I have no relationship with my parents, regardless of the circumstances of our estrangement.
  • I regret allowing fear to keep me from doing things I wanted to do.
  • I regret losing touch with good friends.
  • I regret time wasted worrying.
  • I regret that unfortunate tumble down the stairs of the Nordstrom shoe department.
  • I regret every chance I passed up to show my daughter something wondrous—a full moon at bedtime, Christmas lights when it was cold and late, a concert that might have been crowded.
  • I regret letting that financial advisor talk me out of investing in environmentally-friendly mutual funds.
  • I regret that I didn’t make my novel available on Kindle.
For the most part, none of these are life-altering, and I guess that’s my point. If I regretted the big ones—a failed marriage, an imperfect career trajectory, turning down an opportunity to live for two years in Jane Goodall’s house in Tanzania to build her Roots & Shoots program (gah!)—I’d have to acknowledge that the things that now bring me the most joy might be missing from my life.

My daughter was born during my first marriage. How can I second guess anything leading up to the moment my egg said howdy-do to my ex’s sperm and gave us a healthy baby girl? Divorce was a wrenching decision and painful process, but it allowed me to meet my current (and final) husband, who makes both my daughter and me happier than I thought possible.

My diverse work experience has provided a range of skills that I hope will one day make it possible for me to earn a better living doing what I enjoy: writing, editing, and futzing around with website design and development.

And the Jane Goodall project? I still kick myself over that one, because I sometimes imagine the adventure of living in Tanzania, the satisfaction of teaching children to be responsible stewards of their own environment, and the sheer awesomeness of working with Jane Goodall. But if those two years had sent my life in a different direction—one that didn’t include my quirky little family and friends and a promising, fulfilling career—I wouldn’t be the same kind of happy I am today, regrets and all.


Geraldine said...

Well done, Laurel! I enjoyed reading your post very much, thank you!

Mom2twogoofballs said...

I heart you so much. I want to talk to you about our regrets the next time we see each other--and horses!! It's a pointless and also deeply meaningful topic (the horse part is just awesome). It's also best served with wine. "I regret that awful perm and makeup during the eighties"..this should become a constitutional amendment...we should all recite it on a daily basis. What legacy and role model did we leave the 90s generation? They stood not a chance.

Mom2twogoofballs said...

FYI, this is Julie...I hate my 'Mom2twogoofballs' name..

anna said...

This is really powerful. When it started, I wanted to argue with you that I really don't have any regrets but by the middle, I was remembering all the things I wish I had or had not done and by the end, I was feeling much better. A full circle ride. Honest and truthful and real.