Do you live with any regrets? What can you learn from them? I have a few.
In no particular order (and this is not exhaustive):
- Dropping a Motorcycle
- Dropping off the college lacrosse team
- Dropping Out of Sunday School
- Waiting for Love/Not Having Kids
- Avoiding Therapy
- Sleeping In (Still Somewhat of a Challenge)
- Subscribing to a Single Political View (I was young)
- Moving to Cash During a Financial Crisis (a.k.a. How to Lose Money)
- Delaying Medical Treatment (a.k.a. Being Self-Defeatist about Psoriasis)
- Self-Doubt At Any Time, Any Phase of Life
Dropping a Motorcycle
This term is a euphemism for crashing a motorcycle, specifically when you fall down with your bike. How did this happen? First of all, I was always afraid of motorcycles. That is until I met my man. I asked him to take me slowly around the block. Then, I immediately asked that he take me beyond the neighborhood. Oh, what fun. On one of our early dates, we went on a group ride in the Texas countryside. The outing began early on a Sunday morning to avoid four-wheeled vehicle traffic. The ride was exhilarating. We then went on group ride vacations with his sister and brother-in-law. For safety’s sake, I realized I should learn how to operate a motorcycle, just in case. After all, I was taught how to drive a manual transmission car when I was a teenager just so I would know how. I was the most nervous and probably annoying student in my two-day motorcycle operator course. (I ask a lot of questions). Plus, I swear the shift was skipping from first to third gear, which had me looking like a maniac. My favorite part of the course was emergency braking. Well, I was riding a dirt bike around the neighborhood and doing pretty well. But, I got a little distracted by looking over to wave at my man and then turned my attention to a 90-degree turn. The way it works is the bike goes where you are looking. I saw some kids on the sidewalk and wondered if they might enter the street. At this point, if I had followed my training, I would have simply stopped in a controlled manner. Instead, I attempted to negotiate the turn, but it was too late and the bike and I went down. My right knee was badly bruised and I still have a huge scar on my forearm. I am no Katharine Knievel.
Dropping off a College Team
I loved playing field hockey and lacrosse in high school and excelled in both. I played lacrosse my freshman year in college and coincidentally my grades fell that part of the year. I opted to leave the team. Turned out, whether and when I got good or bad grades did not relate to time spent at lax practice. I should have returned to the team. Looking back, I really don’t remember why I didn’t but as the end of senior year arrived and I reflected on leaving college, I regretted it.
Dropping out of Sunday School
I was pretty little and complained I didn’t like it. And that was it. I didn’t have to go anymore. When I reached the age in the Episcopal Church when one considers whether to go to confirmation class, my father said only I could decide whether to seek to reaffirm my baptismal vows and the way to determine that would be to attend confirmation classes. Being curious, I did. I was nervous at first because of all the years I missed on Sunday school. I loved the confirmation class program. I was confirmed. In my 30s, I asked my parish priest about volunteering opportunities and he responded by asking me if I like children. I told him I wasn’t sure I was a good candidate for Sunday school teacher considering my dropout status. He said, you can learn with the children! I took him up on that opportunity. I loved teaching Sunday school and most appreciate that service.
Waiting for Love/Not Having Kids
In my 20s, I operated on the notion that love happens naturally. A friend warned me we weren’t getting any younger. My 30s arrived and I had not met “the one.” Time waits for no one. Maybe I should have been far more pro-active in searching for a mate. Eventually, I gave up. I was determined not to date. As soon as I took on this attitude, men were drawn to me. It was mystifying. Around this time, I met the love of my life and we’ve been together a long time. For that, I am immensely grateful. But it was too late to have children. I cannot time travel to rectify that. I am very happy nonetheless.
I started getting really anxious when I was 13. In response, the whole family went to group therapy and, being a teenager, I wanted no part of such a family activity. (One of my older sisters, being smart, stayed on by herself.) When I first graduated from college and began my career, I felt anxious again, especially being in a new city somewhat far from family and friends. The aforementioned sister recommended therapy. So, I went once to a therapist who reinforced a negative stereotype right out of a movie. I began to tell him how I felt stressed out about organizing my adult life and managing my responsibilities, and he immediately asked me if I was abused as a child. I thought, wow, that’s a weird and irrelevant question. When I told him no, he kept going back to permutations on it. Bye. Next. Except, I waited on the next for many, many years. I managed my stress and anxiety with the usual: punch lists, accomplishments, exercise and wine. Until I entered a situation that was unlike past experiences. Pushing 40, my past coping mechanisms and success strategies were not working. One afternoon, I felt like I was hit by a freight train and called the doctor to say I was worried I had the flu. My superior let me leave early to go to the doctor, a GP. I collapsed into a heap of sorrows in a chair before I could get to the exam table. He listened to me bemoan stress and ushered me onto the table to listen to my heart and lungs. He administered a flu test. He pronounced, you don’t have the flu and you’re fit as a fiddle. But, let’s talk about the stress because it is making you sick. He gave me the names of three psychotherapists and one returned my voicemail in short order. Some of her office art indicated she was a sports psychologist. She is tough and exacting in her questions, which makes sense, given another frame on the wall is a doctorate in psychology. I wasn’t going to be able to sort out my problems myself without incisive and educated questions by a professional. Talk therapy with her was immensely helpful and I went for a good while. She invited me to come back for tune-ups, as needed. Well, another issue came up that infuriated me and I came back to deal with it. Later, a family member was diagnosed with a difficult disease (I know, is there any other kind? I don’t wish to specify it at this time in consideration of their privacy, but suffice it to say I was thunderstruck, devastated and fear-ridden.) She called me back right away and saw me first thing the next day. Again, discussing stressors with a psychotherapist has been very helpful to me. I believe the only person who can solve my problems is me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get professional assistance. Practically speaking, I don’t fix my own vehicle, color my own hair, do my own tax returns, or engage in DIY medicine, so why would dealing with anxiety be any different?
This is a huge waste of time, period. OK, unless it is a weekend morning and you want to get some extra Zzzzz. But, we are each given life measured in daily increments. Maximize each day but getting up on time and being productive, even if that means making extra time for a morning walk before you really need to get going. If setting a new goal of getting up early is unrealistic, start getting up 15 minutes earlier, then 30 minutes earlier, etc.
Subscribing to a Single Political View
I turned 18 at the end of high school and was provided the opportunity to register to vote at a drive in the cafeteria. I’d been exposed to a conservative dad and liberal mom and made an arbitrary decision to register as a Democrat. I don’t even know if I was informed of the option to be an independent. When Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton appealed to young voters, I went along for the ride. Then, I regretted it. I voted for Bob Dole next time. But, I spent a fair amount of my 20s siding with Democrats on social issues. I remember a colleague’s husband lashing out at me at a party for being ignorant of guns when forming an opinion on gun control. Looking back, he was right. I loved my home state (New Jersey) Republican governors Tom Kean and Christie Whitman. In my 30s, a lobbyist noted I sounded downright Republican. I told him I would be except for certain social conservative issues. Well, I eventually came around while living in Texas and changing my registration to Republican to vote in a gubernatorial primary in favor of Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who had been a good senator. She lost to Rick Perry. Frankly, I am relieved she is currently our U.S. representative to NATO. I definitely feel strong about fiscal responsibility and individual freedoms, two pillars of conservatism, historically. But, lately, I am bewildered by the GOP becoming the Party of Trump. I am keeping up with the writings of conservatives who aren’t going along for that ride. I’ll be over here with my own viewpoints and waiting for the pendulum to swing back again. I still object to certain social conservative positions.
Moving to Cash During a Financial Crisis*
Remember 2008-2009? When the stock market was spiraling down, seemingly out of control, I panicked. I called the company managing an IRA of mine and said move to cash. The principal in that account had already halved. It was not a lot, but it was a lot to me. Guess what? When the market eventually recovered, I lost out. There was no reason to change the allocation when I didn’t need the money and I am nowhere near retiring. *Disclaimer: I am not advising anyone else on how to invest; I’m just saying I regret that goof on my part.
Delaying Medical Treatment
I don’t want to wallow in this one, but it takes some background explanation. I have psoriasis, a genetic condition that causes your immune system to overreact and presents in inflammation of the skin. I’m old enough that the first treatments I got as a kid were ineffective tar gels and tanning beds. Now, we have an array of choices of pills and injections that are designed to modulate that immune system overreaction. For years, I feared trying this. Finally, after a particularly bad breakout, I went for a second opinion and was referred to a major clinical trial that resulted in one of the drugs you now see advertised on TV. It worked. In fact, it worked really well. For years. Then it stopped working and I moved onto one of the other drugs advertised on TV. Not being covered in painful legions is freeing and lifestyle changing. Why wait for help?
You simply do not have time for this. Yes, you should examine your choices and your effectiveness in your endeavors, and make course corrections. But you cannot afford to be your own worst enemy. This means I should get back on a motorcycle and remember the lessons I learned from that whole prior experience. Try again while you still can!