Monday, October 08, 2007

Do Overs, ala Helen

I have very few regrets in my life.

There is one, though, that keeps coming back over and over again. I’m sure some of this revisiting right now has to do with a daughter heading off to college and living vicariously through her. But this is, in any case, something I’ve thought of off and on through the years.

Have you ever thought if you could do your life over again what you’d do differently the next time around?

If I could do my life over again, there’s one big change I’d make. It’s something I can’t fix now. It’s the type of thing where so many part of your life must align in order to make it happen, that once you miss it, it’s gone. For forever, it seems.

I wish that during college I’d taken a year and gone over to Europe for school, or just taken one of the three month summer breaks and gone backpacking all over Europe. England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, yada, yada, yada …

Yes, I would have ended up with a few more student loans to pay off. Yes, it would have taken me an extra year to graduate. Yes, my parents would have put up a fuss, said I was being irresponsible, that I should graduate as quickly as possible (even though I paid for college myself) and get to work. Pay off my car loan. Earn a living. Be a good Catholic, German girl. We’ve been over this a few times. All right already.

I think it would have been worth dealing with all of the above.

I’m not sure what I might have gained from the experience. It certainly wouldn’t have cured my wanderlust. I don’t think I would have actually ended up living somewhere over seas. I think I simply crave experience.


You have the rest of your life to work, raise kids, lose sleep, pay bills, clean the house (or not) and be responsible.

College is such a carefree time in one’s life. No full time job. No husband. No kids. No mortgage. Go. Be. Once you settle in to adulthood, that chance doesn’t come again for a looooong time.

So …

If you had a do over what one thing would you do differently? Would you go on that date? Buy that sports car? Take that job in Manhattan? Kiss that guy? Get pregnant again? Buy that killer dress? Make love on that deserted beach in Hawaii, back when there were deserted beaches in Hawaii? Oops, did I say I had only one regret?

So if you had one thing to go back and do something differently, what would it be?

More importantly, can you make it happen now?

And just because I feel like it, I'm giving away a copy of my first book TREASURE to one of today's commentors. So stop by tomorrow to see who won!


Playground Monitor said...

Aww geez. Ask the hard question, will ya?

I'd have been more spontaneous. Gone with the flow more. When the DH said "Let's go to the mountains for the weekend" I'd have figured out something to do with the cats and packed up the kids and gone.

I can make it happen now, and I'm doing it. The cat be damned! And the nest is empty so I only have to pack me.

Though regretably I turned down a 10 day trip to Scotland this summer because I figured I couldn't do it and RWA conference too. When the DH found out my friends were going he asked why I wasn't going too. I told him my reasoning and he said "You could have done both." It was too late at that point. Next time I'll know to just ask.

Michele Hauf said...

I honestly don't think I'd do anything over. Except maybe that awful frizzy perm I got in 9th grade.

But speaking about taking a year off...I've got a 17 year old boy who graduates in spring. I've been on him for a while now about not jumping right into college. He needs to take off a year, and...just be a kid! It's his last opportunity before he enters the job market or college. I hope he does it, because I don't want him to have any regrets.

Christie Ridgway said...

Helen: My folks were like that too. Get your education, no stops! No fun! I worked every vacation (even Easter break which was just one week). My parents paid my room and board (I paid tuition, books, and expenses) and they said they'd only pay for four years--and only at the college where I was attending. They wouldn't have forked over cash for time abroad.
So I didn't...and while I'm not sure I wanted to spend a year in Europe like some of my friends did, like you, I should have taken a summer, or a month, or something, though I've been on quite a few vacations since (just one to Europe, however).

It's funny you should mention this now. One of my sons has an opportunity to go to Costa Rica for 10 days this summer with his Spanish teacher. He wants to go. It's expensive but we're leaning to a "yes" if he contributes some of the money. I was thinking it was still too expensive, but given this conversation...I think we'll make it happen.

ruth said...

I would definitely travel since I never had the opportunity to do so when I was young. I think that travel is so important in many ways and that the young who have this chance are very fortunate. There was no discussion about it when I was younger. We finished school and worked right away. No fun but reality. I missed out and hope to make up for it but I worry since health issues and being older makes it harder. My son travelled through Europe and loved it. BTW, I love those photos, makes me pine for those places.

Helen Brenna said...

Marilyn, I hear ya. Even though I have this regret, I'm not sure I've learned from it! I'd have probably skipped Scotland too.

Michele, I hear a lot of people say start in college and then travel after a year
or two. It's hard to get back into the whole test taking mindframe after too long a break.

Yep, Christie, Costa Rica would be awesome!

Ruth, I feel better just knowing the whole work, work, work thing was more the norm years ago.

Don't tell my kids, but I think I'll do all right with an empty nest!

lois greiman said...

I've heard that later in life you'll regret more what you failed to do than what you did. I wonder if that's true.

I'm thinking of taking my daughter, 18, to Paris when she graduates from college. But I'm super cheap so I might need encouragement. :)

JoAnna said...

I am just learning to take my chances at trips and different chances when they come. I recently went on a small trip to chicago(I am a poor working student) instead of working during a school break. My friend and I went down there and stayed in a four star hotel, went to see Wicked, took the hotel car all over town(FELT LIKE A ROCKSTAR!!!) and just had a great time hanging out not worrying about life.

I am slowly learning to just live and take adventure when it comes.
As far as regrets my regret would be not going to college right after high school. Now I am in a never ending game of catch-up.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Great question, Helen. I've thought about this a lot. I wouldn't change anything about my college experience. I went to an "elite" ivory tower college and immersed myself for 4 years. I couldn't have gone to Mount Holyoke without earning a tuition grant and living at home for 3 of those years. I guess that's the only thing I'd change. I took out a student loan to pay room and board for a year. Wish I could have lived on campus all 4. Sort of. I'm pretty sure that being a "day student" was part of my outsider experience, and I'm convinced that most writers have been outsiders in some way.

But I cherish my college experience. My first advice to anyone college bound is go to the best college you can do and do it well. Whole-heartedly. Immerse yourself. This is your time. Don't get married first. If you're not ready and all you want to do is get away and party, don't waste time and money. But realize that if you take time off to work or get hitched, you're bound to acquire added responsibilities, and that's going to change the college equation. You can still do it, but it won't be the same. If you're ready for college when you graduate from college, go for it. Junior year abroad is a nice option for travelers, but I couldn't afford it. And I had a great junior year on campus living in a dorm.

More on travel wishes later. Gotta take the cowboy to the hospital. Having knee surgery today. Too many rank broncs, he says.

Helen Brenna said...

I'm sure that's true, Lois. Go to Paris!!

Hi, Joanna. Everyone should feel like a rock star at least once in their lives!! lol And you'll catch up. Better late than never.

Kathy, good luck with the surgery. Wow, Cindy's husband had that done too, right?

Debra Dixon said...

Helen-- My life is fab. And I wouldn't change anything NOW. But if I were magically transported back to pre-college, with the world before me...I would have head to LA. Not to act. To produce. I love story. I love business. I like making things happen. I don't mind crisis. I've got no problem starting at the bottom and rising throught the ranks on ability and networking. (g)

I was already seriously dating Saint Hubby by then so I don't think that would have changed.

But looking back is only a faint regret for me. Not because I want to change my life but because I was too young to truly know how much was possible. My parents encouraged me to reach, but their idea of reach and mine have settled into completely different definitions. (g)

robynl said...

I so would love to take back the big argument I had with Mom just before her passing. I should have just walked away and said nothing but no, my big mouth. I can not do it any different because she is gone now.

Helen Brenna said...

Good points, Deb. I wouldn't change anything now either. If I had taken a year and gone to Europe, I wouldn't have met my dh and had these 2 wonderful kids.

Anyone ever see the movie Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow? A woman misses her train home and 2 different lives start running parallel, one where she made the train and anther where she missed it. It was interesting.

Helen Brenna said...

Ah, Robyn, that's a tough one.

Playground Monitor said...

The empty nest rocks! Don't get me wrong -- I love my boys to pieces. But I've raised them and they're on their own and productive, and I have my house back. Of course I have no one to get stuff from the top cabinets either. I had to buy a step-stool. And the DH has to mow the yard now. But it's still ok. *g*


Michele Hauf said...

Lois, you and I need to talk Paris. I did it on a budget. Very doable. I think you and your daughter could go for a week for only a couple thousand dollars.


Cindy Gerard said...

hey Helen
Good question. One I've been thinking of some lately - all on the heels of an amazing trip to Italy - which is why I've been AWOL for so long - that and the deadline from hell. Anyway, now I'm wishing I'd traveled more when I was younger. Of course when I was younger, I didn't have any money so it was a moot point.
Lois - DO take your daughter to Paris. Exposure, even on a vacation basis, to different cultures is so incredible. the people I met on my trip were amazing and even the bad experiences (and there were a couple) were enlightening.

Betina Krahn said...

I would have insisted we take more family vacations and do more fun things as a family. We never camped or did car vacations or went to Disney World. DDH was a devoted workaholic and I was always on a deadline of some kind. Money was also an issue, until later in life, when we took the boys to Washington DC and Hawaii-- which turned out to be a very bittersweet trip.

We were so busy volunteering to run things our kids participated in, that we didn't get to do things just with them. I do regret that now. . . even though we're fairly close. I do regret that Don and I didn't get to take that trip to the UK-- tickets were already purchased and we had our passports-- when our youngest came down sick-- very sick. We never did get to travel that way together. I miss that.

But if that's the worst regret I have, I guess I'm okay. I have a lot of other good memories to compensate.

Helen Brenna said...

Gawd, I feel like I've depressed everyone. So sorry.

For me, it's more about trying to learn from a mistake I made, in the hopes of not doing the same thing all over again. Which, like Lois, I have a tendency to do.

This is interesting, though, alot of us are talking about travel.

anne said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your blog today as it resonated with my entire way of life and thinking for so long. Now that I am older and wiser I have reversed my priorities. I have missed out on so much. But the most important ingredient in life which is so beneficial is travelling. I did none when I was young, since I was in school, completed my education and then married and financial constraints. But that doesn't seem to stop anyone, anymore from experiencing this great outlet. I was too careful and conservative about life and now if possible I would like ot makeup for it by travelling to Europe and seeing everything that I missed. Better late than never and I think the appreciation would be even moreso.

Helen Brenna said...

Good to know I didn't depress everyone, Anne! lol

I think better late than never is the phrase of the day.

ellie said...

If ever another opportunity becomes available, I will grab it with both hands and never weigh and measure all the pros and cons which I have done all of my life. Just do it. The young adults of this generation have done that and travel everywhere and anywhere without thinking twice about objections and problems. Life is too short. I wish that I knew that and much more then. Regret all the wonderful vistas that I did not see.

Lily said...

What I would redo... I just passed an exam and I did really horribly so it would be great if I had a time machine and could go back just for one day.

Nathalie said...

I am who I am... and my experiences have shaped who I am... so I would not change much... but it would be great if I could go over to my trips and enjoy it more when I was there... less whining and more site-seeing.

Debra Dixon said...

Oh! And I wish I'd been a dedicated journal keeper.

lILA said...

I love your do-overs... I would say I would like to go back and enjoy more the time I had with my family when I was young because these moments are gone forever.

Kaitlin said...

Hmm...this makes me think of one of my favorite Jude Deveraux books The Summerhouse. In it, 3 women are given a chance to go back & relive a week of their life. It was fascinating to find out what they chose to do with the time they'd relived. :)

I think if there was something I could do again, it would be to do a better job in school. I'm not an idiot by any means, but I didn't do ANYTHING in school, mostly out of boredom. I ended up a dropping out a month into my senior year & I still regret that. Sure, I got my GED and all that, but I didn't get to do anything that the rest of my peers did. No prom, no graduation, no nothing. It's kind of sad really.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Surgery is over and seems to have gone well. The cowboy has turned wounded warrior. "After you get me some soup but before you refill the ice bag, can you hand me the remote?" I'm at his service for as long as he's supposed to stay completely off his feet. He's got 24 hours.

I was an Air Force brat, so did lots of traveling as a kid and longed to stay put. But as a young mom I believed strongly in getting the kids out to "see the USA in our Chevrolet..." (Too late for Kathy's Booker Trivia? Who sang that ad?) So we did. When you live in the Dakotas, every road is long, so they're pretty well broken in. Some family trips were by air, but most were by car. We did DC, Hawaii, the Rockies, the Southwest, Disney World, the Cape, Chicago, San Diego, San Fran, etc. "Please, Mom. No more museums for a while." (I love museums.) I took my daughter with me to conferences when dh couldn't go. It was pretty much a good move.

Kathleen Eagle said...

One of the best things I did travel-wise was Europe in 3 weeks with a group of teachers from ND--all women--and my mom. Such good memories! She had cancer surgery 2 years later and died 2 years after that, but she was in her late 50's when we took the trip and healthy and independent and all was right with the world. Plus, the dollar was REALLY strong, and we had a ball.

Do it when you have the chance, guys. I was stunned when I told Mama I was planning the trip and asked if she wanted to go along. Never in a million years did I expect her to say yes. I'm SO glad she did.

Kathleen Eagle said...

One more Mama gem. We went to Hawaii on our way to and from Guam when I was a kid. My parents always planned to go to Hawaii for their 25th, but they put it off when the time came, thinking they'd go to FL with friends that year and do Hawaii in another year or two. But that trip didn't happen. Daddy died of a heart attack at the age of 48.

So remember Mama's immortal words. "Go when you have the chance."

Kathleen Eagle said...

Oh. I meant "Kathleen's BOOMER Trivia."

Helen Brenna said...

Ellie, Can you go now?

Lily, doesn't seem like much to ask for, one day, does it?

Nathalie, sage advice. I keep telling my kids this.

Deb, personal journals I don't regret, but I used to keep notebooks for the kids and every bday write pages and pages of what their life was like at the time. That's kinda fallen away over the years.

Lila, you're so right. Little kids only stay little for such a short time.

Kaitlin, that does sound like an interesting book. Something I'd love to write, actually!! I'm glad you got your GED, and hey I didn't go to prom either!lol

Kathy, glad to hear the dh is doing okay. We didn't do a lot on long distance driving when my kids were little. "I" don't do well in cars. We did, though, do some fun camping, memories I hold dear still.

Conscripted Cherry said...

Since I burned the soup I was making because I was reading all the responses I would like to go back about half an hour

I wish I had bought the house I really wanted eight years ago- rather than the house I really like and can afford at today's rates a year ago

I wish I weren't so intimidated about traveling alone- this isn't so much a do over as a learn and go from here

Helen Brenna said...

Hey, Cherry, yep, house decisions can drive ya crazy.

I'm sure traveling alone takes some getting used to. Have you checked out tour groups?