Regrets? Very Few.
“If you could go back and change something, or have a “do-over”, what would you change in your life?”
Do you ever get asked this question? How do you respond? Do you look back and find unhappy episodes or periods of time, seeking to uncover the root cause of the upheaval in order to change that event or decision? Whether you view your life as a whole or your present circumstances as good or happy, do you ever indulge in this flight of fancy?
When I am asked this question I typically say something along the lines of: if you could tell me that I would be right here, right now, talking to you, with the same healthy and happy marriage and family, I would have been an art history major at Williams instead of a biology major. Not too many people are too very interested in the 5 genomic point mutations between prairie grass and maize (ZZZZZZ), but I’ll bet I could have discussed the differences between Monet and Manet a couple of times at cocktail parties and such. But even at that I still don’t think I’d change a thing.
On a flight home from Denver after visiting my son “The Heir” I sat next to a very nice man, Robin. We had about a dozen “one degree of separation” contacts to chat about, but we spent most of the time talking about how we had arrived in our lives at those two seats on that plane on that day. One of us seemingly sailing along, still on the ascent on the typical professional scoreboard, and one seemingly descended and becalmed.
Robin, in full sail, offered a regret. He regretted that he did not take 3 years off following college and prior to law school to live in his favorite city, Paris. I find this line of thought coming from a successful professional amazing. Always have. I find the choice of the word and sentiment “regret” to be puzzling, though.
In the truest sense of the word one would regret an act of omission or commission that causes harm to oneself or another. One can be sad that things may not have turned out as planned, or sad that an opportunity may have been missed, or even sad about an error or mistake that was unfortunate or embarrassing but did not result in any harm.
You see, for Robin to regret his decision to go directly on to law school would be to regret all that has come to him since that time, and I believe that this is a straight shot to a lifetime of unhappiness. Had Robin gone to Paris he would not have met his wife of some 30 years, would not be the father of the particular 3 successful daughters he “introduced” me to. Indeed, Robin and I would never have found ourselves sitting together, pleasantly whiling away the hours between Denver and Cleveburg.
Some years ago the White family decided to stay in Cleveburg when offered the opportunity to leave. It turned out to be a very bad economic decision, and to be quite honest, I am very sad about that. But as those of you who have read me these last couple of years know, my wife and I had a very sick child. Because we WERE in Cleveburg “Lovely Daughter” got exactly the right treatment from exactly the right people at exactly the right time. Don’t get me wrong–I really wish the economic realities here were different. The economic outcome has been dismal, with one inconvenience piled on top of another, and no way to ever truly recover.
But I don’t regret our decision for one minute, for each day I awaken I am still the father of a daughter. There is no way to know that I would still be able to say this if we had moved, if we had made a different decision and were, then and now, thriving economically. In truth, every decision we have ever made contributes in some way to where we are and what we have become today. Going back and teeing it up again might certainly create a better address today, but then again, perhaps not. I stayed in Cleveland and the little blond fluffball who reached up her arms–”Ina huggie!”–is still here, now reaching across at eye level for Daddy hugs.
I shared this story with Robin. I suggested that his wonderfully successful life probably afforded him the opportunity to live in Paris for a bit NOW, but this time with his wife of 30 years and visited by his own “Lovely Daughters”.
Robin said he’d send me a postcard.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 at 7:52 am and is filed under Random Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.