Because I am nostalgic and spend a great deal of time in self-reflection, I afflict myself with an emotion that I despise: regret. I analyze my life’s decisions, and I am full of self-reproach for some of the decisions that I have made. I know it is a wasted emotion; I cannot change the past; yet, I often wonder how life could have been different if at key moments in my life, I would have made different decisions.
1. What if I would not have dropped out of Miami of Ohio? Sure, I wanted to be in a sorority that did not want me; sure I felt that the university owed me something that I was not receiving, but I really didn’t give it a chance. I went to that school and lived each day with my brother’s voice in my ear: the cool places to go, the best parties to get invited into, the right classes to take. I never discovered it for myself and allowed myself to be immersed in campus life because I was worried I was doing it wrong. Had I not dropped out, I would have finished college in four years. How would that have changed me?
2. I did not give my second university, Ohio University, a chance either. My brother was diligently trying to open a watersports and accessories store, and three weeks before I left for OU, he asked, “If I can launch this, will you come home and help me?” Of course, as the dutiful sister, I said yes. Six weeks later, he was well on his way to opening his store, and I was already repacking my bags to come home. I enjoyed Athens, Ohio, and I probably could have felt at home there, but I never gave it time.
3. What if I would have tried to find a “real” job after finishing college instead of falling into the family business. I was so dependent at the time and afraid of failure and rejection. I allowed myself to do what was easy instead of taking on a challenge. Who knows what kind of doors I could have opened for myself had I had the gall to just try.
4. What if I wouldn’t have been so foolish with money all of those years? I still feel like we live paycheck to paycheck, and we are in our forties! It is supposed to be easier by now, but bad investments and bad money ventures left us brutally in debt. It has been six years since my parents passed away, and maybe when we accrued their debts that we had co-signed, we should have just filed bankruptcy. Certainly, my credit couldn’t be any worse than it is now.
5. What if I would have insisted my mother see a doctor? Looking back at pictures of her in the months previous to her death, she was ashen. I knew she wasn’t feeling well, but it was winter, I thought she was fighting off a bug. She would not go get a check up because she had to drop her medical insurance because she could not pay for it any longer; she was not old enough yet for Medicare. I truly think if I would have insisted that she take the time to take care of herself, she wouldn’t have died when she did.
Regret is a slippery slope. It can leave me feeling devastation and worthless. I know I should not dwell in the past, I made decisions; I did not make mistakes, at least not intentionally.
1. Thus, I have to know that at the time, I was miserable at Miami– I came home to make myself happy, not wait for happiness to find me. I became more self-confident in the year I took off of college, which eventually turned me into the woman I am today.
2. Luckily, I was not attached to OU when I left it. It was a like a ten week college vacation, and I earned a few credits along the way. Also, working retail with my brother for three years was an amazing first hand lesson in business. Even though we made many mistakes, we successfully kept the store alive, while applying economics, marketing, and promotion to our every day lives.
3. Had I not gone to work for my parents, I would never have met Tom. I literally met my husband while on shift at work. (Which means those three beautiful munchkins wouldn’t be here, either. Who would make me laugh? Who would make me want to pull my hair out? Who would make me proud?)
4. I spent a little money frivolously, true, but the money I lent my parents and the credit cards and loans I co-signed I did out of love. I had no idea they were in debt the way they were, and I wanted to offer them some help. One of these days, I will be in the black again, and then all of these years of feeling tight will be a distant memory.
5. As I said, I realized my mother looked ashen while looking back at pictures. Sometimes, we do not see sickness in the people we see all of the time. She said she felt off; it was winter, I thought she was fighting off the flu.
Yes, regret is a dangerous arena to set up camp. It is best to stay clear and find nicer woods to pitch a tent and enjoy the warmth of the sun. I made choices, and I must remind myself that with every choice, I have had good experiences that have brought about my present and will build my future.
My life is my masterpiece, and when I am coloring it, I have to remind myself that I do not have a crayon the color of regret.