Unlike Sinatra, I have more than a few regrets. Enough to mention, but I won’t in detail. Not here. My regrets stay locked tightly inside me and I fear if I accumulate any more, my insides will burst like the overflow of a shaken carbonated bottle. But my lid sits securely in its place–for now.
Some of my regrets I couldn’t control, but most, however, were of my own-doing. My past is filled with chances I didn’t take when I should have and chances I did take when I shouldn’t have. I quit when I was meant to fight and acted brave when it was best to walk away.
Live and Learn.
I meditate. Being still helps calm most of my mind’s chaos, while teaching me to accept my past knowing that I can’t change it. The part of my life already lived will not be given back to me. I’m tilting toward the brink of forty. If I’m lucky to live to see eighty, my life is already half-over. Half-lived.
Time may minimally ease the sting in the cuts of a person’s deepest regrets, but the guilt and shame in not feeling any sense of accomplishment in one’s life is a heavy burden to carry.
Luckily, that burden was lifted from me the moment I signed my first publishing contract. I waited twenty years and I would have waited twenty more because getting published is the validation most writers seek, and I was no exception to that need of validity.
In 1999, I was fresh out of college — an English major who didn’t want to teach. I want to be a writer, I’d say, and being a teacher sounded too permanent. So I took a job selling cellphones. I sold cellphones before I even owned one. I didn’t know how to power-on most of the phones I was meant to sell, let alone answer technically-specific questions about them.
“Is this a NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) battery or a lithium-ion?”
“Um…let me check on that for you, sir,” I’d say, and sneak behind a front display and whisper to my manager, “What the #uck is a nickel metal something battery and lithium something another?”
These exchanges happened often. I’ll never forget the $hit I caught from a customer when I told him a charger he wanted to buy was an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) Motorola product when it was actually an after-market brand. It was an honest mistake, but because he owned stock in Motorola, he was furious. And he let me know it.
I was a terrible salesperson, but that was the appeal. The only job I wanted to be good at was writing. The downtime waiting for customers was spent writing. But I didn’t yet know how to write and my first rejection letter proved this. I was around twenty-three years old and all I wanted was to be a published writer. I took the rejection well. I didn’t expect it to be easy, but I also didn’t know it was going to be so hard.
But the hard is what makes the moment so sweet when you finally get it right.
I signed my first publishing contract early last year and my book came out the following summer. Though I may have felt validation as a writer, that moment, a year later, has created one of the biggest regrets in my life, and that’s saying a lot. I know I can’t bring back the past, no matter how far I reach back. Like all my other regrets, this one has to live through its course, and will be felt every inch of the way.
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