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Regrets. I’ve Had (more than) a Few.

” ‘If only’ must be the two saddest words in the world.” Mercedes Lockey

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When I hear people say ‘I have no regrets’, my first thought is “I’ll have what they’re having”. Living a life that gathers no regrets is something we all want, but as years, events, experiences pile up, it’s harder to to come by — at least with a straight face. The truth is, we each have our own vision of how we wanted our lives to be and how they actually unfolded. As years add up, so do regrets. Whether they are productive or unhealthy often is not the point. Yet, they still have a way of elbowing into your consciousness, invited or not. They become like an accusatory Jack-in the Box, gleefully popping up with a laundry list of things you did or didn’t do and once it starts, it’s hard to shut up.

One of the biggest regrets of life, I think is a sense of having gone on the trip, but missed the adventure. Gary Haugen

The complicated, worrisome year we’ve all lived through is cause enough for mental review. More than ever, we realized just how precious life is — and how short. The obvious fragility of life was a newsreel re-run over and over through months of a pandemic. I suspect many of us, seeing very real mortality all around us, were treated to inadvertent flashbacks of our lives, enabling regrets to saddle up for rando visits. I’m that kid who, instead of pressing ESC, say ‘hold my beer’ (as if I actually drank), and settle in for masochistic doomscrolling of all my failures.

Recently, I was treated to an insomniac night of life review on an endless loop. I saw a 19 year old girl supporting a husband through college instead of fighting for art school, obviously not the smartest decision I ever made on many levels. As years spin by, I saw relationships I should have run from with my hair on fire, or left long before their expiration date. I’m a slow learner. I was starkly reminded of how parents’ threats of distancing and disapproval shaped my life as well as any confidence or idea of myself long into adulthood. I saw all the chances I didn’t take, in living color. All the places I never saw, risks I never took and the chicken-little fear that controlled it all.

Living in regret will become your biggest regret.  Bill Johnson

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LIFE is a one-way ticket.

There are no do-overs or instant replays. This is not a dress rehearsal so, for God’s sake, do things that matter.

You only live once. Yeah, we know. We don’t need an in-your-face acronym to remind us, nor Mae West’s nifty, ad nauseum admonition that if we do that livin’ right, once is enough. That’s a big ask. What if we do life wrong? What if we pass up chances? What if the boxes we check off, as years go on, are those of regret?

Well, as they say – that’s life. There’s zero chance that we won’t make mistakes during this time on the planet. Regrets are just part of the ribbon tied package. Decisions we made, and those we didn’t. Words we said and those we never got to say. Still, if we judge our life solely on our mistakes, we miss the whole boatload of what we did right. Hell, even the fact that we did anything at all.

“Life is short, if you turn around you might miss it.” Ferris Bueller

Living life by a catchphrase can have a few flaws. YOLO doesn’t give us permission to run wild through our human years, acting dumb, drunk and clueless. It isn’t just one long Instagram worthy moment. It’s also not a green light to indulge with privilege, or disregard the innate gifts of health and heart you arrived here with. If you spend moolah like there’s no tomorrow and realize that, oops, indeed, there is, it will suck to know you burned through your bank account, right?

At its core, I think YOLO’s sister phrase might be Carpe Diem – seize the day. After all, your life is packed with days to seize. Knowing we come with a one way ticket with an expiration date, maybe we should plan on making each day the best we can. Chase our hopes. Seize each day. Live our lives to the fullest.

One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.

We’ve lived these last months within the frightening uncertainy of a pandemic that’s taken more than 100,000 people in our country in the blink of an eye. They had no time to consider if their YOLO was enough. COVID-19 gave them no choice in the matter. But, while we still have time, are still healthy and aware of all this world can hold, we still have time to stick the landing.

Continue reading “LIFE is a one-way ticket.”