When I first started writing this post I titled it, “My Biggest Regret.” After seeing it written down in front of me I I didn’t like the negative vibe that resonated with it. So, although I will be writing about the one regret I have in my life so far, I decided to put a more positive swing on the subject.
The inspiration behind this post is a book that I just finished reading – The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. This is one of those books that evoke every type of emotion — one minute you’re crying, the next you can’t stop smiling and the next you decide to just put the book down because you’re not sure whether to laugh or cry. I think God strategically placed this book in my path to help me through my own life lessons. I was wandering around an old, used bookstore in Paris (definitely my father’s daughter!) looking for a book to read while I spent the day in the Jardin du Luxembourg. The books were mostly in French but I did happen to find a small English section. While I sorted through books I would never spend money on, this one surfaced. It looked readable so I splurged, spending a whopping two euros! The book is written by Bonnie Ware, a woman who finds herself by becoming a palliative care taker for the dying. She writes about the life changing experiences she had while she cared for those who had reached “the sunset of their lives.” The book is structured around these top five regrets her patients had as they reflected on their lives:
Regret 1: I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself
Regret 2: I wish I hand’t worked so hard
Regret 3: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
Regret 4: I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
Regret 5: I wish I had let myself be happier
Each one of these tear-jerking tales touched my heart. I found myself questioning how I live my own life and what type of regrets I would have. I was fortunate to be raised in a home where these type of lessons were instilled in me at a young age. Although reading through each one of these regrets has taught me the importance of living a simple, non-materialistic life, I can’t say any of my regrets are similar to the ones above. The biggest regret I’ve had so far in my 25 years of life has to do with my four years at college. I look back at my time at Herkimer Community College and SUNY Oswego and see a place where life-long friendships were created and life skills were developed. I learned how to live without my parents, I began making my own decisions and I slowly transformed into an adult. While all of this is incredibly important, I’m disappointed with how I approached the academic component of college. Yeah, I know what a nerd I am. You were probably expecting something a little more juicy, but hear me out on this one.
Throughout my four years in college I usually had two jobs at a time, I played sports, I was involved with different organizations and I managed to graduate with a good GPA. I went to class regularly and felt guilty when I skipped. I wasn’t the worst student ever, after all. What I regret about college is my lack of interest for learning. I took over 40 classes throughout my college career and three years later I feel like all I have to show for it is a piece of paper and a graduation date. I took classes in math, science, photography, anthropology, history and the arts. I spent hundreds of dollars on textbooks and thousands on tuition. But what was I doing during class while my educated professors expelled valuable information? Usually texting on my phone, figuring out what I would wear to mug night or planning a party with my friends. I completed assignments and studied to pass tests, not to absorb knowledge. I went to class to get it over with. I spent little time getting to know my professors. Unfortunately, as I reflect on my college career I see a lot of missed opportunities.
One of the biggest lessons travel has taught me is the art of possibility. Before embarking on my adventure one year ago, it almost seemed impossible to be doing what I was about to do. Was I really quitting my job to wander around the globe?
One year and twelve countries later I have discovered the ocean of possibility. I’ve come to realize how small I am in this gigantic universe and just how much there is out there to learn about. Over the past year I have found myself yearning to acquire new information more and more as each day passes. Questions come out of my mouth before they are even formed in my mind. I now buy audio guides at museums and historical sites (crazy, I know). The other day I bought a bilingual book in French and English. I turn on Mozart and Beethoven because I actually want to. All of these things are done without much question because I’ve developed a burning desire to learn and to grow. It’s easy to get caught up in the comfort zone of life and just go through the motions. But if you really think about it, what kind of life is that?
Many people say you should never have regrets. I don’t buy it. If you don’t have regrets that means you live a perfect life and well, that simply isn’t possible. The problem is when you have regrets and you do nothing to change the pattern. Every chapter of our life brings new adventures, opportunities and experiences. We’ll often look back at previous chapters regretting certain decisions, relationships, etc. The key is finding ways to make a permanent change for the better.
After 25 years of life I have to say I feel blessed that this is my biggest regret. Yes, I’m $25,000 in debt and I really wish I could go back and take advantage of the education I had at my doorstep but there’s no use in dwelling on that thought because time machines don’t exist (yet). Instead, I will continue to focus my energy on all of the new and exciting things there are to learn each and every day. I hope that when I reach the sunset of my own life, I will see a person that never stopped learning, growing or exploring.
As you can see from my past few posts I’ve obviously had a lot of time on my hands to spend reading, writing and pondering. My time in the French countryside has been rejuvenating to say the least. It’s absolutely amazing what some fresh air, nature and time spent doing things you love can do for you. As the pictures will show, it’s not too difficult to find peace in such a serene place. I’m off to my favorite country on Monday. Any idea what country that might be? =)