Posts Tagged 'regrets'

Questions: The Regrets Edition (Part II)

Great answers to Part I of the regrets column. Here are my other 5 top regrets.

6) I regret being afraid of dying. In some ways, I feel my whole life’s purpose is to finally accept (at least on a Zen-like level) the inevitability of my death. Instead, the concept so terrifies me that it has clearly kept me from being as adventurous and/or productive as I could have been. A little caution can be a good thing, perhaps, but to live without fear of death sounds so freeing. (To be completely accurate, it’s more the pain of dying than the actual being dead part that scares me).

7) I regret being shy around girls. Ok, so it’s all good as I ended up finding this great awesome girl, but oh man, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have caught the eye of a beautiful girl and wish I had gone up to her and introduced myself, make small chat, throw her a compliment, ask her on a date, etc. but instead only watched her walk away and out of my life forever. If I had chosen not to do any of those things because I thought it would be too forward and ungentlemanly or even creepy, that would be one thing. But me … I was mostly just scared, especially of rejection, and that’s just silly. Only the rejected can give rejection its power (Oh yeah, that’s like Tony Robbins good!)

8) I regret not being more serious about my writing. Even as a young kid, I fancied myself a writer. I remember creating a whole series of short stories, including a choose your own adventure (damn I loved those), about a porcupine named Kong. I had people who liked and encouraged my work, including a teacher I had in elementary school who took a bunch of my stories and compiled them in a pretty cool bound package and helped get one my tales published in a young children’s magazine (still one of my all-time great thrills).

I continued writing short stories and small pieces throughout college, but as time passed, I grew more discouraged. I would read stories by the masters, by authors I totally loved, and bemoan the fact I could never be as good as them. I experimented with longer forms of writing, including novels, but could never finish my projects. My imagination was lacking. My vocabulary was inadequate. My characters were cliched.

But if my writing was inadequate before, it’s only gotten worse. Writing is a skill that must be honed like any other and I unfortunately have written very little over the past five years – aside from these blog posts, of course. I think I convinced myself that writing was not as enjoyable as it used to be, but I wonder if maybe there’s something more going on here.

Because sometimes I think of how envious I am of the people who seem like they know what they’ve wanted to do since the day they were born, who have passion about something and pursue it with joy AND single-minded determination, a lethal combination for success. And then I think back to how I would spend hours as a young kid holed up in my room, composing stories, getting lost in the process, reveling in my own creations, and wonder if for me writing should have been that thing, and – note the emerging theme – I just was too afraid to pursue it. That my imagination was lacking, indeed.

9) I regret not doing more for my fellow man. This one is simple. I give to charity a decent amount, but not nearly enough. But more importantly, I should be more generous with my time. On this site, I’ve often complained about the lack of compassion certain members of society seem to have for their fellow humans, and yet I cannot honestly say I’ve done much to make a difference in this world. I talk a much better game than I do, and worry I just may be more selfish than I’d like to believe. Even when I try to do something charitable, I often do it begrudgingly and with the minimum effort, like the time several years back when I along with my brother mentored an inner-city student and helped sponsor his private Catholic school education. I did so little to really help that kid succeed, and embarrassingly, have since lost touch with him and his family.

10) I regret not going to California to watch the Northwestern Wildcats play in the Rose Bowl. OK, this is a small one, but when I was a senior in college, the Northwestern football team came out of nowhere – after decades of being the doormat of the Big Ten – to shock the world with a miraculous year for the ages. In one season, they beat Notre Dame, Michigan (in the Big House) and Penn State to win the Big Ten and earn their first appearance in the Rose Bowl in fifty years.

I saw every home game that year, and even a couple of away games, and that season easily stands as one of the top three sports fan experiences in my life. Many of my college friends went out to Pasadena during the Winter Break to cheer the team on, but I was a rather broke student and decided it would cost too much money. So I went home to St. Louis and watched the game on TV with some friends and family.

What a joke. You don’t get opportunities like that often, and when you do, money should hardly ever be the deciding factor. I know the advice to save and prepare for retirement or a rainy day has its merits – and especially sounds sage in tough economic times like the current ones – but money is merely a means to an end, nothing more. Be prudent, but have fun and take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities when they arise. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Questions: The Regrets Edition (Part I)

In a post long ago, I talked about regrets and how I view them as a natural part of the examined life, something to be embraced, not feared. A person who claims he has no regrets is either a magnificent liar or an unreflective fool.

You can learn a lot from your regrets, and the only goal should be to minimize their occurrence as you grow older.

I didn’t go into much detail discussing the specifics of my actual regrets, but I’ve now decided to list the top 10 regrets of my life to date, thinking that it could actually be a useful exercise for me and an enjoyable, potentially educational, but very long read for others (so long in fact that I’ve decided to divide the column into two).

Over at dagblog.com, each regret will be accompanied by a related question in the comment section for you to answer.

Some of these regrets are small, some are huge. Some are in the past, where nothing can be done about them, and some persist today. All contribute to who I am, and as the new Senator from Minnesota was known to say in a previous life, “And that’s … OK.”

1) I regret not lifting weights when I was going through puberty. Let’s start off small. I think a bit of strength training – not a crazy amount, mind you, just a little weightlifting – is much more impactful when your body is developing and maturing. I’m not very body obsessed, but I think being stronger would have helped in a bunch of different ways. At the very least, it would have made me a better baseball player, which would have been nice as not making the high school baseball team is another regret of mine (although not worth a top 10 since I did try out 3 times, getting cut each year, and I give myself props for that).

2) I regret not making the top 10 of my high school graduating class. This is actually a bit of an anomaly because if anything, I think I cared too much about grades and schoolwork. But there’s a reason why this stands out as a regret. I remember going to my brother’s graduation as a junior high schooler and seeing the ten students with the top 10 GPAs get recognized for their efforts – they were asked to stand and the crowd gave each of them a significant round of appreciative applause.

For some reason, I decided there and then that that was something I wanted to accomplish. It became a goal – a ridiculous and nerdy one to be sure, but a goal nonetheless. And it was in my grasp til the very end, as I got all A’s until my final semester of high school. But I didn’t do the extra effort to sneak into the top 10, refusing to do the term papers that would have gotten me the ‘H’ honors (and 5.0) grades in history that would have put me over the hump. This sounds like a small, almost stupid thing but in many ways its indicative of a lack of single-minded determination, which I think the most successful in society seem to have and I clearly don’t (an issue that comes up later in this post). I had a goal, I should have worked just a bit harder to achieve it, plain and simple.

3) I regret not living an extended period of time in a foreign country. This is pretty self-explanatory and clearly, the easiest, best time to do this would have been in college, studying abroad for a semester or year. To me, it’s a sign of me living scared and nervous about trying new things.

As a side regret, though it isn’t necessarily my fault, I regret not learning a foreign language (or two) earlier in life. Like developing muscles, languages are so much easier to learn when you’re young, and I automatically give people an extra ten points of respect and IQ when I hear they’re fluent in multiple languages. Unfortunately, the arrogant American public education system didn’t include foreign languages as part of its early education curriculum back when I was a kid (I think it might now, but in any case at least American kids today have the bilingual Dora). In the end, I took 6 years of French in high school and college and still could barely communicate with the Frenchies when I was in Paris for a trip about ten years back.

4) I regret not being nicer to my mother through my teenage and young adult life. My mom is awesome. She’s funny and social and loving and sensitive and generous, and full of so many endearing quirks. Everyone loves her. I do, too, of course, but there was a time when she embarrassed me. OK, she still does, but there was a time when I was way too annoyed by my embarrassment and wasn’t always so nice to her.

Nothing major, just small cutting comments or a general lack of affection. I know where I was coming from and what I was doing – just trying to rebel a bit. Like all good Jewish mothers, my mom is a bit smothering and neurotic and for much of my pre-teen life I was a big mama’s boy, and I probably overcompensated in my attempt to shed that image. I can now fully embrace that I am and will always be a mama’s boy. But I know there were times I hurt her when she did nothing wrong, and for that I am sorry.

5) I regret giving up acting in college. In high school, I was in many of the plays, and had decent-sized parts in a lot of them, except for the musicals because I can’t sing or dance (We did Fiddler on the Roof, and I – one of the few Jews in the production – had to play a Russian because of my limited skills). I really enjoyed acting, and thought I was pretty good at it (I knew I had some talent when during a final exam in a freshman acting class I was able to cry during a scene in which I played a father who found out his wife had left him. The tears even surprised me.)

I wasn’t perfect,  by any means – watching old tapes, I cringe at some of the tics I brought to the stage,  but I would have liked to continue to pursue acting. Didn’t think that would be an issue seeing as I was, after all, going to Northwestern University, which was known for its theater department. Unfortunately, freshman year I got paired up with a roommate who was majoring in theater and it discouraged me when I saw his commitment to the profession. I thought about performing as a lark, not necessarily a career, and my roommate and his theater friends were approaching it on a much different level. So I chickened out and never pursued it further. I’ve taken a couple of acting and improv classes to try and rekindle the magic, but I’m afraid that dream may be dead.

Yo Deadman, please don’t hurt ‘em …

Ring the bell, school’s back in, break it down … Stop. Question time!

10) Ok, several days have passed. Are you still smiling and dancing, or do you find yourself suffering a bit from some sort of post-partum-like depression?

9) Not that I would know anything about this, but which is a more important element of looking good on the dance floor: Rhythm or self-confidence?

8) So I turned 35 this week. Is it lame that one of the things that most annoys me about this age is that I can no longer check off the 18-34 age group in surveys?

7) My awesome girlfriend got me one of those comfy leather recliners for my birthday (we once got in a fight because she said she thought those chairs were ugly and didn’t want one in her apartment while I insisted they were one of man’s god-given rights), and I have now fallen asleep while watching TV on that chair each of the past several nights. Have I become my dad?

6) Why or how did humans evolve so that they crave and demand variety in their meals? Every day, my dog acts like a Democrat who just found out Obama has won the presidency (i.e. like a delirious nut bag) when I take a scoop into his jar of food, even though I’m preparing to give him the exact same crap I always do. It seems like it’d be so much easier and more efficient if we humans could also be content eating the same thing every day.

5) Which is worse: Sarah Palin’s ignorance; the McCain advisers who chose Palin despite her ignorance; or the fact that those same advisers are now just piling on, anonymously leaking to the press more examples of that ignorance and suggesting she torpedoed the campaign?

4) One of the ironies of the election was that the heavy black turnout caused by Obama’s candidacy contributed to the passage of Prop 8 in California, which outlaws gay marriages. Do you believe the civil rights struggle of homosexuals is equivalent to the African-American struggle. If not, what is the difference? (This is not a trick question; I think there can be legitimate debate here, though in the end I personally don’t think there’s a difference.)

3) If you could find out the exact date of your death, but couldn’t do anything to change it, would you want to know? If you found out you were going to die within the next 12 months, what would be the biggest change you’d make in your life?

2) I have plenty of regrets in my life. One of them I remember well is telling a childhood friend in first grade that there was no Santa Claus, which was a really crappy thing to do (especially so cuz I’m Jewish). Do you remember when you first found out there was no Santa Claus and what was your reaction? (My apologies if I have once again spilled the beans and destroyed any delusions you may harbor).

1) Please look at the attached map below. It’s a graphical display of the voting trends in Tuesday’s election compared to 2004. The blue sections are areas where people voted more heavily Democratic; the bluer the section, the bigger the change.

Which of the following facts does this map reveal (Choose all that apply): a) The Republican brand and agenda is dying b) The Democratic brand and agenda is ascending c) Barack Obama was a better candidate than John Kerry or d) Damn, the South is disturbingly full of racists, esp. Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

2208 Voting Trends

Regrets? Yeah, I got a few …

i remember when I was a teenager reading and quite enjoying ‘Life’s Little Instruction Book’, a short guide full of pithy sayings and reminders on the best way to live a meaningful and happy life.

One of the rules that stuck with me was ‘Live your life so that your epitaph could read, No Regrets.’ On the surface, it’s hard to argue with that one, but the more I age, the more I realize how preposterous the idea is. Regrets are a healthy part of the examined life, and the only real goal one should have is to decrease the number of regrets you accumulate as you get older (and hopefully wiser).

I have a ton of regrets, most of which stem from childhood. I wish I would have learned how to skate and play ice hockey. I wish I would have learned more than one foreign language. I wish I would have lost my virginity at an earlier age (not sure that was as much of a choice as I’d like to think it was, though).

Perhaps my biggest regret is not keeping a diary. I always equated diary-keeping with, well, being a chick. But the fact of the matter is, I think memories are some of the most precious things in the world, and reading about a specific past event can provide the quickest path to recall. I normally have trouble remembering what I had for dinner yesterday, but when I reread ancient clips from my journalism days, sights and sounds from the past come flooding back to me.

I believe all the things we’ve ever done are stored up there somewhere in our brain; we just need powerful enough triggers to extract them. Old pictures can help (and I do love me some old pictures), but they don’t do the trick like words can.

I could start keeping a diary now, and I suppose this blog will act as that on some noteworthy occasions, but it’s my childhood and young adult days – with all of the associated experiences and constant changes which made me who I am today – that I’d most like to remember in more detail.

Alas, sans diary, I’ll have to be OK with most of my childhood being just a pleasant blur that grows a bit fuzzier by the year. On the positive side, I’m sure total recall would dredge up some memories I’d prefer to keep repressed. After all, I’ve already got enough regrets.


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