As is usually the case with me lately, I am inspired by something else I read and am going to post a discussion about it myself. Heather (who writes Dooce) posted regarding regrets. It's a topic I have mulled over a lot in my life. Over time, I have developed an aversion to the concept of regrets. Life gives us a lot of opportunities to make good or bad decisions, and at the time, most of us do our best to try and make good ones, based on the information we had at the time. These decisions cut a path for us through our own timeline, setting a course that carves our personalities and shapes our understanding of the world. Those decisions, good and bad, are all valuable in their own right, for the lessons we learn, the people we meet, and the experiences we gather. So there isn't much I regret, because it brought me where I am today. But then again, I haven't ever made any "turning point" types of decisions or mistakes which have had such a bad effect that I would want to undo it to spare someone pain or undo some grossly disastrous wrong.
Even so, there are a few regrets which stand out in my mind. Some end up unraveling, as I ponder the effect that could have had on my life, and some stand firm.
As a high schooler, I was offered the opportunity to study before and after school with my art teacher, in order to better prepare me to go to art school. Like Kansas, or Chicago. SERIOUS FUCKING ART SCHOOL. It was put to me as a decision - either I was willing to put in the effort and work my ass off to get in and succeed, or my art teacher wasn't going to put in the extra time with me. It was a HUGE compliment to my talent, and something I took my time thinking about before deciding. I talked to my parents about it at the time. I was SSSSOOOOO tempted, because art is in my soul and it feeds my soul a LOT. But, in the end, I decided not to go to art school. I thought then (which was true then, may still be true now) that the only time my art was really brilliant, rather than just capable, was when some wretched sort of emotion came out of me. Angst, anger, sadness, fear, frustration, loneliness. And the rest of the time, if I forced art to come out of me, I wasn't really satisfied with it. I was afraid of becoming a "starving artist", depending upon brief bits of misery to create something that would pay the rent. And usually the brilliant pieces that came out of me weren't part of an "assignment", the way most artists are given assignments for their jobs. The thought of just painting and selling my pieces never occurred to me; most artists I knew of never were famous until they were dead. Um.... NOT APPEALING! So I chose to study languages instead. That was something else that I was not only good at, but also didn't depend upon my mood. However, I can't say that I actually regret this decision. It all leads to the path of where I am now, and I like where I am now. I wouldn't be married to the man I'm married to, because I met him through a friend I made in Russian class. I wouldn't likely even be in Austin, now. And clearly, I wouldn't have my beautiful Hootie. So no, I don't regret it. But I can say that I could have done it, had I decided otherwise. That, or med school, another thought that occurred to me in hindsight. Not that I had any idea I would maybe have been good at that, but later in life I have discovered an affinity for that which never occurred to me back then. And, had I done that, I would have also missed out on a great many trips to Europe and other parts of the world that have so enriched my life. SO, no regrets.
I also could regret that I spend SO MUCH time wrapped up in trying to please other people, worrying about what they think. There's definitely a balance to be achieved, though. I don't know that I have it down yet, but it is in the hopper, so to speak. I don't want to be this hapless narcissist who is only out to please herself, but I know that a lot of my life I have spent making decisions and behaving in a way that I envision would be likeable and smart and savvy. I didn't really even consider really just marching to the beat of my own drummer, because heck, I didn't think my drummer was very cool, and didn't trust him anyway. These things are changing, especially in the last 7 years. But who is to say when a person ought to be learning this? Many people never learn it, and either go on in their self-absorbed way, or become a doormat/martyr for the people they want to impress or please.
But there are some little regrets I do have, which I know wouldn't have changed my life course at all. Like, for example, the decision to not stay in Austin on our wedding night, and go to the big ass party all our friends threw in our honor. We didn't have a lot of money, and my inlaws paid for the tickets to get us to Colorado for our honeymoon. The ones they chose, however, were red-eye flights the next morning, out of Dallas, and the only way we could get there on time for the flight was to fly out of Austin at 7pm the night of our wedding. So, we had a 2pm wedding, and what amounts to a "tea and buffet" mid-afternoon, and we flew to Dallas. To stay in a BORING hotel next to the airport. Which, for a wedding night, was less than fantastic. I would have loved to have stayed, sucked up paying for more expensive tickets, and had a great time with our friends, because isn't that what it's all about anyway? As I look back at the wedding itself, I still love a lot about it. Just not that part. AND, I would have served alcohol at the wedding. We didn't because there was a friend or two we thought would get rip-roaring drunk, and make an ass of himself at the wedding. Well what wedding is complete without a drunk friend, I ask?!? I was too uptight back then. Seriously!
I'll also borrow from Dooce, in that her only regret was not wearing more sunscreen. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will end up dealing with skin cancer at some point in my life, especially on my face, because of having gotten so much sunburn in my life. I have always liked to have a light tan in the summer, and many years had a nice dark tan. We always thought that was so attractive. It ain't gonna be so attractive when I have scars from having stuff cut off my face and arms and chest and back someday. I'm much more into sunscreen, ESPECIALLY for Hootie. I don't even want to instill in her that having a tan is something worth seeking. If you get some color from being outside, and it happens slowly and naturally with a LOT of sunscreen on, then that's just living your life. But I BATHED IN BABY OIL as a teenager, to get a darker tan. HOLY SHIT, HOW STUPID IS THAT?!? My uncle just died from melanoma, from a spot on his back that had been there forever, which likely turned to melanoma in part from sun exposure. This is the generation that needs to make a change in culture about the sun. And really, it's a woman thing, I think. I don't see men worrying about it nearly as much as women do.
But really, that is it. I don't think I've been purposefully mean to people in my life. And over time, I have learned a lot of good lessons from the various mistakes I've made. But I've also been very lucky, in that I haven't really made that many mistakes, and the ones I have made haven't had that many heinous consequences. Maybe if something I did had led to someone being severely hurt by me, then I'd regret it. But luckily, that's never happened to me. KNOCK ON WOOD it never does. The saddest part of reading Dooce's post was reading the comments of people who have some seriously bad regrets, like regretting giving up a child, or regretting not seeing their parents before they died, stuff they can't undo and will wish they had for the rest of their lives. I try my best to think through the decisions I make so that I don't have to wish things were different.