It is said that at the end of our lives we are more likely to regret the things we have not done than regret the things we have done. That is not to say there is always a perfect outcome with the things we do try or say. But at the absolute end of life, we tend to regret the things we wanted to do or say and didn’t.
Growing up, I didn’t want to be the center of attention. I wanted to live on the outside edge. I didn’t want to be noticed, called on, or “famous”. As I have aged, I have a taken a new perspective on things. I don’t want to be laid to rest calmly and quietly. I want to experience things. As Hunter S. Thompson said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’” I agree, Mr. Thompson, this gal is skidding in broadside.
Wouldn’t we all be happier, if we embraced his attitude and took risks? Why does it take until middle age to realize that the world is passing us by? Why do we wait to grab life by the horns and enjoy the moments? My grandmother was right when she used to say, “youth is wasted on the young.” When we are young, we are always worried about the future, what others think, what we look like or are asking ourselves if what we are doing is appropriate. We constantly feel judged and like underperformers.
At some point in middle age, most of us realize that people will always have something to say whether good, bad or ugly. Everyone has an opinion. I am not sure if we just get to the point where we don’t care or maybe we just get tired of the bullshit. But most of us, start to change the rules of the game between age 40 and 50. We start to live life more in the moment and more for ourselves and not others. We begin taking more risks for the chance of a reward or story to tell.
I am terrified of heights. I always have been. Once I became an empty nester, I no longer had my son to do all ladder-required duties. It was either “do it myself” or pay someone. I am a true thrifty Yankee, so what do you think I do? I do it myself! Doesn’t mean I like it. I still do not like heights. I still despise ladders. Yet, when the wickedest of snow falls come, I will climb that ladder to the top of the roof and shovel off that dang snow. And frankly, it is kind of exhilarating. I remember the first time I saw the view from the top of our roof. It was something that I had never experienced before. And because I took that risk, I have a story to tell.
Another big one for me…I was always the passenger on my husband’s motorcycle. That is until I turned 40. I decided out of the blue that I wanted to take the class and get my own license. I was the oldest person in the class. I didn’t care. I had so much fun and aced it. We have put a lot of miles on those saddles over the years and many of them I had taken a literal backseat. Over the past 16 years, we have traveled many miles and even have spent weeks camping along our travels. At 56, I still ride my own motorcycle. I have had so much fun, seen so many beautiful places and to this day I love the wind in my face. I now have many exhilarating stories to tell instead of just a few one liners from years of being a passenger.
Sing out loud, write that book, try parasailing. Who cares if you can’t carry a tune or if the book is a grammatical nightmare? The real victory is the “doing”. Not everybody will be a famous singer, but nearly everybody loves music. Sing! You may not become the next “Stephen King,” but write the book. Who cares what anyone thinks? Maybe you WILL parasail only once, but you tried it. It is the “doing” that is rewarding. And it is in the “doing” that bears the story.
If the point is to live with less regret in the end, we must be more daring; take risks. Try. The point isn’t that you become mega successful or famous. You want to share with your grandchildren your at-least-I-tried” stories. They will be much more exciting than harping a life lesson of how it feels to have regrets.
I know that not everybody wants to ride a motorcycle. You may be afraid of heights. Those are my stories. Share those paintings you have in the closet. Publish that blog. Volunteer at the shelter.
What can you do to avoid regret? What do you fear, but would love to try? You won’t know until you try it, and just think of all the great stories you will be able to share!