Read this in the September 28, 2006 issue of the Alameda Sun:
No regrets. It’s a maxim I have always aspired to live by and a life lesson I would like to somehow teach my daughters. Living a life of no regrets means that my life is not filled with past events and decisions I now consider mistakes. However, I must admit that it gets tougher as the years go by to keep to this mindset.
When you are young, it’s easy. Sure, there was that awful haircut in the 80s, when I had the guy at the Waverly Barbershop in Greenwich Village shave just half of my head, but that was the style, I tell myself now. I don’t have any weird piercings or regrettable tattoos or even have to give a second thought to the countless lapses of judgment in relationships and jobs and situations that I have had to extricate myself from in my personal history. I have a good reason—okay, excuse—for each and every one of them.
Indeed, I can rationalize any of my past decisions. For example, I went to an all-women’s college. Mount Holyoke College is a fine institution and I certainly received a good education. But, an all-women’s school? What was I thinking? Well, I made the best decision based on all of the circumstances at the time. What made it all worthwhile was that I would never have spent my junior year in Ireland, definitely one of the best years in my life, had I not felt the need at the age of 20 to escape a world predominantly filled with women.
There is a big caveat here. Living a life of no regrets means that you are always making the right decision, or the best decision, at any particular moment. There can be no intentional bad decisions. I need to listen to that little voice inside who really knows all the right answers, don’t I? As time marches on, not only does it get more difficult to rationalize bad decisions, it is also harder to accept them without bitterness or anger.
Certainly, I have more experience and knowledge, more tools and understanding to make those right decisions. But life just keeps getting harder! Just as the physical aches and pains of older age hurt, the pain of bad decisions intensifies as I add years to my life. The stakes get higher, too, because there are more people involved. There is a ripple effect in the wake of my decisions. They first affected only me, but now I have three kids and extended friends and family who all share a stake in my life.
My daughters are so young now. They have a full life of choices and decisions ahead of them. I can tell them about this no-regrets rule I have. I can model the behavior for them. But, it’s really up to them to live it out. It’s up to me to stand close by and try to guide and hope it doesn’t get much worse than a bad haircut for a while.