Pre-Coffee Philosophical. Because I’m Crazy Like That.
You know how sometimes you can be in a place — a weird place inside your head — and you’re sitting there wondering whether you’re doing the right thing? Whether you took the right exit. Whether you’re following the right path. Because everyone else seems to think that it’s wrong. That you’re falling. That you’ve lost your ever-loving mind.
And then something happens. Some little thing — a well-timed news story, a word of encouragement, a tiny sign of camaraderie from Life — its way of letting you know that while others might not “get it,” the two of you are still on the same team.
Maybe it’s because we look for signs when we need encouragement, and these nudges would mean something completely different had we chosen another road.
But sometimes, something speaks to you, and it’s too loud to ignore.
I no longer remember what series of internet rabbit holes led me to this article or why, instead of depressing me, it made me feel encouraged. It’s written by Bronnie Ware, author of a book called The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.
Okay, let’s just get the uncomfortable part out-of-the-way first. Yes, dying sucks. I hate it. You hate it. It makes all sad when someone does it. Mostly because we don’t understand it, and that makes it scary. That, and the sense of permanence.
That said, it’s important — so, so important — that we learn in this life the lessons people are willing to teach.
You know, so we don’t have to learn the hard way.
Okay. How many times, since you were a child, has someone tried to save you from learning something the hard way?
Eight hundred seventy-nine million?
And how many times has that stopped you from trying something yourself?
That’s what I thought.
As a species, we’re relatively hard-headed. Especially when we’re young, when we’re so thirsty for not just knowledge but experience that it matters not that our parents told us not to drink too much. We’re still going to go out, take too many shots from a bottle of peppermint schnapps, become far too honest with too many people, empty our stomach contents all over the bathroom floor, and forever after suffer from an aversion to toothpaste flavored anything.
What? That’s just me?
Well. The irony is, we just become more stubborn when we get older. Only instead of it being about experience and going our own way, it somehow turns into going the right way — the way everyone else is going. We think decisions are no longer an option — that we’re too far caught up in whatever stage we find ourselves (marriage, children, retirement) to think about straying now. We’re flabbergasted and inspired by those who fall from the assembly line way of living and yet, somehow, we think it’s not an option for us. That those people have something special.
But they don’t.
And according to Bronnie Ware, dying people know this all too well. They know they could have done something different, but they simply didn’t. Fear of the Unknown kept them on the straight and narrow, and it wasn’t until they were faced with death that they realized, really, that there was nothing to be afraid of. It’s just Life. So the regrets, apparently, are fairly universal:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
The article offers really nice explanations of each, so I won’t expand. But I think, maybe, that they speak for themselves.
We’re so worried all of the time that people will judge us. That we can’t be loud and silly at a party. That we can’t make hot sauce in Costa Rica. That we can’t talk about vaginas at the dinner table.
But it looks like, in the end, that you only have one judge to worry about — the one sitting at the bench inside of your head.
The one who’s been toughest on you from the start.
Regrets, I think, are unavoidable. There’s always something more you could have done.
But tell me.
Isn’t the biggest always that you waited to start?