When you think about the things you will regret when you’re 80 or 90 or 100, it’s probably the things that you didn’t do. They’re your sins of omission. Very rarely do we regret something we tried but failed at. It’s those actions, connections, statements, or gestures that we should have made - but didn’t - which will haunt us as we’re making our final tabulation of time spent here on earth.
When we were all young and dumb, the world was a rainbow landscape full of wonderful adventures and opportunities. Each of us set out to become whatever we thought we should be…at the time. The world was our oyster and we meant to have it all.
It’s funny how reality evolves and our past lives and aspirations finally catch up with us. That winding road called ‘life’ is either running smooth as asphalt or rough like gravel. And yet none of us want to get off the road even if the ride isn’t what we expected it to be after all these years.
It’s been fifty-four years since I turned twenty-one and shed my cloak of anonymity to adorn myself with the costume of adulthood. Now many of us are at a point in our lives where reflection is more than a glass of chardonnay framed within a sunset or a cold brew among high school buddies.
Our current life style is an accumulation of habits born long before our birth. For some of us it was modeled after our parent’s pioneering excursion into life. For others, it was a process of discovery, loss, acceptance and rejection. And finally our life style became us on a daily basis and we weren’t even aware of it. It’s only now that the accumulation of excess and/or scarcity raises its hidden head.
I had a quote given to me by the President of the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting back in the early 70s. It’s guided me for many years in how to live my life. The quote goes:
‘The worst thing one can do is not to try, to be aware of what one wants and not to give in to it, to spend years in silent hurt wondering if something could have materialized – and never knowing.’
Ernest Hemingway is quoted as saying that life is like a bank account. How you use it is solely your determination. You can withdraw it in a hurry and live a very short life. Or you can be diligent with your withdrawals and live, hopefully, much longer.
We can always try to rectify some of our mistakes or enhance our positive steps but age and reticence to change are usually huge obstacles to overcome. We’ve let life’s ebb and flow (our gypsy muse) guide us in this rhythm of life. For most of us, the process was organic and without a lot of thought. For me it was my first apartment, my first real job and the first time camping overnight during a long Minnesota winter.
And now quite unexpectedly, we find ourselves both benefiting and/or suffering from past investments of our youth. The things we did to ourselves, the deposits we made on our bodies, our finances, our love life and our children. We’re now at the stage of making withdrawals from our youthful decisions and indiscretions.
Our life investments have been made, squandered, lost, divested and set aside. Some things worked out and some others didn’t. Now we have the residue of our wisdom or luck or mistakes to live with for the rest of our lives. And all those life steps are now just a memory.
A career was hatched, grown and nurtured or changed many times over. That part of our lives is over unless boredom and fear of retirement pushes us in a new direction.
My bank account of friends isn’t the greatest. A reluctance to make an effort back then, despite the chiding by my wife, has left me lacking in that area. Yet what I do have in the vault is now priceless. One of my aspirations was to mine those rich veins of past friendships to see if I might unearth more nuggets there. Occasionally I’ll strike gold and rekindle a long lost almost forgotten friendship from the dusty archives of my past. It’s a blast and immensely satisfying.
Those random discoveries got me thinking about other friendships; past and future, strong and vapid, present and omnipresent. I thought about the friends I’ve had over the years. Some of them shared isolated points in my life; high school, college and work. Some were but fleeting incisions in the tenderness of my youth. Others were shared experiences like the military; isolated, vacuous and destined to crash with each discharge celebration where inane behavior in the barracks seemed to make perfect sense back then.
Most of those memories are lost now in that vacuum called life experiences. A few were found again but most are just fragrant memories of a life well spent. Like separating wheat from the shaft, I’d love to rekindle a few of those friendships and nourish them back to the point of a commonality we once shared; a kind of harvesting from my ‘lost years.’ Another aspiration was to explore my talents as a writer. Another was to teach the grandchildren.
I guess that’s why I want to continue seeking out opportunities to teach the grandchildren and give them experiences I never had growing up. A recent family trip to London and Paris is a good example. Eleven people living together in a foreign country for 10 days and accumulating wonderful experiences along the way.
So it all comes down to friends and family. I am in a good place in my life. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore! As an artist, I love creating stories in many different genres and I intend to continue writing until my pen dries up or I go blind. I’d like to take my friends and family along on this journey of self-discovery and see whatever else comes our way.