Ever think about how different your life would be if you had chosen x instead of y? I do. Often.
Inspired by Heather Burton’s Medium article in Publishous, Ten Choices I’m Glad I Made and Ten I Wish I Hadn’t, I recently wrote These 10 Choices are the Best I’ve Ever Made.
But I only hit half the equation. So as not to drag you on forever in that last piece, I decided to tackle the latter part of the challenge here.
Maybe it was procrastination. Not wanting to deal with the tough stuff. Ever run into that?
But still. I’m all about dealing with my tough stuff these days. Peeling off the layers of the onion, so to speak. Ultimately, I believe all things in life can work towards good — if I choose that perspective. And these things, too, make up the me of now.
Here are some choices I made which, if given a do-over from hindsight 20/20 perspective, I probably would have done differently:
1 | I gave my parents a hard time as a teenager.
Yes, I did. When I hit my tweens, I began to rebel. (My parents say it was earlier, though.) I wanted to forge my own path. Although raised Catholic, I didn’t have a real faith, one that interacted with God. I just thought, naively, that God lived in that building I was forced to visit once a week.
And that’s where he stayed. I didn’t really take principles of Christ-focused living into account when I was young. It was all about me, me, me, ME! (Did I say, ME?) I was ambitious with my school work, but I was equally ambitious with my social life. Which gets me to #2.
2 | I got involved with boys in high school.
This was not a good thing. I had no strong moral compass. Which means I flirted widely and a whole lot more. There was alcohol, there were drugs.
Years ago, I thought I could never run for public office because all that would be exposed. Now I find so many in the public eye have that in their past (including the most recently selected Supreme Court judge). So, hmmm.
Anyway, enough said. I am grateful I was miraculously spared from the worst of those dalliances. But barely. It could’ve been bad. I could be in a completely different life right now. I’m brutally aware of that, and thank God almost every day for that sparing.
3 | I didn’t really wake up to my own education until college.
Though ambitious in high school, I had no clear direction as to what I wanted. Maybe it was the curse of being the oldest child, but I truly had no idea of where I was going with just about anything back then.
Academics came easy for me then, as did leadership and all sorts of things. I was very social, often too social for my own good. But I never quite fit with the “really popular people” in my grade. Maybe I was just a tad too nerdy.
When I got accepted to Stanford University, my Mom blurted out in a very unfiltered manner, “Well, I didn’t think you’d get accepted there.” Hmmm.
Arriving on campus as a freshman, I discovered “big fish me” was more of a guppy in an ocean of high achievers. It was tough. I now had to work.
Eventually I learned how to study, and how to learn. But it took me awhile to get that and to find my way.
4 | My husband and I sold off my Apple stock to pay off my college loans.
Late 1980s. This was stock my dad had purchased for me and my sister. It wasn’t a lot. But had we kept it till now, wow. Just wow. Enough said.
5 | I took way too long to go back to grad school.
Six years. They weren’t wasted. I got married, helped in the startup of a nonprofit, lived, traveled and served overseas, and worked in a challenging but ultimately rewarding job in Anchorage, Alaska, where my husband is from.
I still could handle the rigors of higher ed six years out. But I wish I had waited only two. I’ve encouraged my kids to learn from that choice.
6 | I didn’t develop some key habits earlier, including writing and blogging. I wish I had done all this earlier.
I’ve only really been learning about habit building in the last three years, when I began blogging and listening to more personal growth podcasts. It has revolutionized my thinking. I am all about it now, doing it in so many areas of my life.
For example, today marks 128 days straight of writing 500+ words. It also marks five months of extremely consistent exercise (and a drop of 10 lbs./4.5 kg), daily reading, decluttering and a whole bunch of other good stuff.
I am getting traction in my life in a way I’ve never experienced before as a result!
7 | I haven’t read enough books.
Okay, this may be everyone’s regret. I mean, what a delight books are! They take you away to other worlds or inform you how to live in this one better. They thrill, they encourage, they open your minds to new ways of thinking. Who wouldn’t want to read more?
But, because of #3 and #6 above, I feel as if I’ve missed some foundational books along the way. Sure, I’ve read the Illiad and Odyessy, Dante’s Inferno and A Tale of Two Cities, but when I did I didn’t dive deep enough. I feel as if so many of the books I should have read deeply only got a cursory pass over. Or didn’t get read. As if I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
I’m married to an English Literature teacher, so I’ve proposed someday we spend a year (or more) just reading through and discussing a curated list of key works. He’s excited about that — and so am I!
8 | We didn’t raise our kids overseas.
Before we got married, my husband and I talked about raising our children overseas. That’s what we intended to do.
But life got in the way, things happened, bills needed to be paid. It didn’t go as planned. I’m not so sure I regret it wholesale, but I do think it would’ve been healthy for our family to live overseas for a much more extended period of time than a single year in China.
I did write a book about that year, as it impacted us all.
Of course, if we had raised the kids overseas for a long time, our lives, and their life experiences, would be completely different.
9 | I’ve spent too much time over these last couple years entangled with the news.
I’m in a good place right now with my news consumption. But it hasn’t always been that way. And these last two-and-a-half years have been so very painful, on multiple levels. I’ve written extensively about that in this article: Why You Need to Balance Your Media Diet
My father is a news junkie, and I seemed to get the genes.medium.com
As I’ve up-leveled my habits in many areas, I’ve found myself drawn to doing more productive activities and pouring into relationships rather than fretting away over news I really can’t do much about. I endeavor to keep informed, yes. But not overwhelmed. I’ve turned a corner on this, and I’m so happy about that. You can read more here:How to Topple that Wall & Score Victory Every Time
You have an opportunity – every moment, every day – to bring your best self forward, even when you hit a wall. Which…medium.com
10 | Every moment I missed being present, loving someone who needed it, being grateful, shining God’s light.
While I’ve aimed to be alert and aware in my life, I’ve missed it many times. I’ve been an on-again-off-again journal writer throughout; indeed, I wish I had been a better chronicler of my life from the earliest ages. Perhaps if I were more introverted I would have been better at this.
You see, I’m more of an extrovert who has become an ambivert (kind of in the middle) as I’ve matured.
I love time by myself, but I also love people. I need both of these to get refreshed, not just one.
Truth is, we can lament about all the opportunities missed, and the mistakes made. It is human nature. But it is a nature I choose to fight against every single day. Because life really is too short to waste our time on regret.
And, while I believe reflection like this is healthy, if it leads to a serious case of FOMO or paralysis of action, it can be a problem.
Rather, what I seek in it is greater self awareness and understanding of others, our world and ultimately the One who created it. This is a healthy pursuit of reflection. That’s how I lean.
What about you?