In the past, I’ve always found those who live by a philosophy that involves doing what you want and not having regrets profoundly annoying. Too many people get themselves into trouble with short-sighted bad decisions, the kind of decisions that are likely to leave you injured, broke, infected, or incarcerated. That kind of life, act now and screw the consequences, is not for me, at least I always thought.
However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the other extreme is no way to live either. I’ve spent too much of my life overthinking things to death and coming up with ways to sabotage myself, to convince myself that something is a bad idea without even trying it. And now, I’m ten short months away from turning 40 and full of regrets over things I haven’t done in the past. My past is littered with too many events I didn’t attend that won’t happen again, experiences I passed on that don’t exist anymore, and girls I didn’t ask out who are married now.
How did I turn out like this? A lot of reasons, probably. I’ve seen a lot of lives ruined by immature decisions that weren’t thought out well, and I’ve always made it a point that I don’t want to turn out like that. I’ve noticed some aspects of my personality where I could see myself as the type of individual who could easily fall into some of those traps, so I’ve made a point of staying as far away from anything that might lead to such a mistake. (Alcoholism, for example. I’ve never had a drink in my life, because I see myself as the type who would be easily susceptible to abusing alcohol.) As a child, I feel like whenever I was encouraged to try new things, it was someone else encouraging me to try something that they thought I might enjoy, which isn’t bad in and of itself, but it feels like new ideas that came from myself were often discouraged. In young adulthood, I came of age spiritually in the late 1990s, when the big fad among Christian youth and college groups was that dating was bad, spending time alone with the opposite sex was inappropriate, and breaking up with someone was generally portrayed as something so painful that it should be avoided at all costs.
But the important thing is to understand where to go from here. There has to be something in between. I’m not going to go get drunk in Mexico and hook up with prostitutes, #YOLO. But at the same time, sitting here refusing to try something because it might go wrong, it might cost too much, I might be disappointed, that leaves me just as disappointed, if not worse, as if things had gone wrong. I can’t keep carrying around all that regret. And I might finally be changing. I’ve done several things in the last month that I thought for a long time might be bad ideas, but so far I’m doing fine. I wish it hadn’t taken me 39 years to figure this out, but there’s nothing I can do about that now.