I hate the advice “live life with no regrets.” And I don’t particularly trust people who say they “truly have no regrets.” Just because you learned from a regret doesn’t mean you wouldn’t do things differently were you given a do-over. And just because that might not be true for one regret, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true for another.
Don’t worry. I do get the sentiment behind these vast generalizations. The point of the advice is to not dwell on what you can’t change because, clearly, you can’t change it.
But I think, maybe even overall in the way our society thinks, we’ve swung too hard in the other direction. Turn on any Top 40 radio station and I guarantee there will be a song with some derivative of “livin’ life with no regrets” as a lyric. In TV and movies, the most-envied characters tend to be the most care-free ones.
It’s like we’re all trying so hard to live a life where we can check off a “No Regrets” box at the end of it, we don’t stop to think about why we might’ve regretted that action or what we might learn from allowing ourselves to feel regret for something we’ve said.
Meh. Maybe I’m overgeneralizing the generalization. But I needed a premise for this whole post so that’s what you get before we get to the meat:
Regret Number One
Quitting Applebees as soon as I could
I didn’t feel like I was in my late 20s until I started working at Applebees at the end of last year. Up until I was 24, just about every job I’d had was restaurant related, so when I started at Applebees at 27, I was shocked at how differently my body reacted to the jump back to food service.
My feet HURT, my back HURT, my neck and shoulders HURT. I was beyond exhausted at the end of every shift. I was on my feet, walking around for at least 8 hours a day but, frustratingly enough, it wasn’t enough to keep me “in shape” like it used to. Needless to say, it took no time at all for me to be so done with that place and so ready to be back in an office environment.
So, I quit about a month after getting the office job I have now, which I realize now was just financially dumb.
Sure, this new job came with a significant pay raise, one not reliant on tips. But the thing was, that one month I had both jobs, I was able to pay all of my bills with the tip money I made at Applebees.
If I’d stuck with that, even for just a few more months, I could’ve built up a significant amount of savings in a fairly short amount of time. Hell, I might’ve even been able to buy a new car this past summer like I’d wanted and not subjected myself to yet another 4-5 months of 90+ degree weather with an un-air-conditioned car. I could’ve paid off at least one credit card and also avoided at least two other regrets on this list.
But coulda, shoulda, fucking woulda. Am I right?
Lesson learned: Work a little bit harder now, it’ll pay off later.
Regret Number Two
Skipping out on the Jenny Lewis concert
This year has been so long and convoluted, I’m honestly not even sure what part of the year this happened. I think summer? Probably summer.
ANYWAY. This past summer, I entered an Instagram giveaway for tickets to the Jenny Lewis concert in Asheville, NC by tagging people in a post by the venue. I went all out – doing what I’d done 2 years before for a Lana del Rey concert and essentially assuring my win by entering way too many times – and tagged at least 10 or 12 people while most other people tagged one or two.
Not surprisingly: I won two tickets and a signed CD.
Only problems: the show was a Sunday night, 2 hours away, and I couldn’t find a soul to go with me.
So I wimped out. I ghosted the venue when they sent me messages asking when I’d pick up the tickets and that I could still come pick up the CD when I didn’t show.
I let fear get the better of me, but not so much fear of my car breaking down on the way there or something sinister happening because I was a woman alone at night in a strange city or even oversleeping the next morning and missing work.
I honestly think I was afraid to go and just have fun.
I’d/I’ve been in such a depressed rut for so long, it was too unsettling to, first, break that routine/rut and then, second, go feel something I wasn’t used to in a place I’ve never been.
I wish so much I could’ve gotten over those anxieties then. But at least I’m working on it now.
Lesson learned: When the feelings have been bad and sad for so long, the good feelings can be scary. The important thing to remember is that they’ve always been worth it, so work through it.
Regret Number Three
How I spent my last night in Denmark
One of the undisputed highs of my year was getting to go to Denmark.
And one of my biggest regrets is how I spent my last night.
I got to go to Denmark because of a conference hosted by my company’s office located there. So work paid for all of my travel ahead of time and would reimburse me for my expenses while I was there, including lodging.
As we’ve probably established, I’m not the best money manager so when it came time to leave, my credit cards were still maxed out (sorry Mom or Dad if you’re reading this, I lied about paying them off but I really am working on it now) and I was going to have to rely on what was on my debit card the week I was there (the previous week’s paycheck minus ~$150 for a bill that was paid before I left).
Thursday night before my early morning Friday flight back home, my card was declined at the hotel where I was staying.
Technically my next paycheck would’ve hit just before midnight EST, which was just about the time I would be leaving my hotel to go to the airport, Denmark time. But I didn’t want to risk getting stuck there, so I called my parents to bail me out. They were, very luckily, able to pay for my night in the hotel over the phone and my mom even sent me a couple hundred dollars of “just in case, but go have fun tonight too” money.
But there were only twelve hours left before I had to be at the airport and I was exhausted and a little embarrassed and lonely and homesick and pet-sick. So I pulled out my laptop and ate the sandwich the conference hosts sent me off with and watched Brooklyn 99 until I fell asleep.
I didn’t wander around downtown Copenhagen that night like I’d told my boss I would. Instead, I made up a story about it raining much too hard for me to venture out of the hotel.
Lesson learned: The money will work itself out. Experiences are more important and also harder to come by a second time around. Some of the best experiences can so easily turn to regrets; don’t take them for granted when they’re presented to you.
Regret Number Four
Waiting all year to start therapy
This one feels self-explanatory but of course, there’s always more to it than just that.
At the beginning of the year, I got a not-so-wild hair to start going to therapy. Much as I felt a weight lifted at the end of 2017 from quitting a job I hated, that wasn’t going to be enough to actually deal with my depression/anxiety.
By the time I’d left Applebees and was in a place where I had the time/money to start looking for a therapist, I’d been to my regular doctor. As a part of their mental health initiative, they gave me a survey at the beginning of my unrelated appointment and ended up putting me on Lexapro based on my answers.
So I gave that a shot without therapy. It was meh. Its biggest benefit was that it made me realize talk therapy would be more effective for me. But by the time I’d figured all that out, it was October and I wasn’t able to make a therapy appointment until November.
Now I’m in it and it’s weird and it’s hard at times. But I can tell that it’s helping. And we’re on track to keep meeting through March when I should have a clearer plan for my head and my future.
Lesson learned: Therapy works, even if it’s not as extensive as it initially seemed. When you need help, don’t put it off.
Regret Number Honorable Mention
Waiting well over 5 years to move out of state
When I was younger, the only thing I really, really wanted to be when I grew up was an actress. Now, that dream has evolved into more of a “I really, really want to do something in the movie industry, just please let me work on movies or TV” sort of situation.
I don’t like Atlanta. And, much as it’s trying, Charlotte is not comparable to it. So there go my southeast Big Movie Career cities. The logical choices then are going big and going to New York City or Los Angeles.
Never having been a big fan of the cold, I’ve wanted to move to Los Angeles since I realized I actually could move to Los Angeles way back in college. I told myself I’d save up, graduate, and move out that way for work or more school.
After living at my parents for a couple of years, having saved up some money, I thought I could do it then.
It felt like it’d be too hard to “leave the nest” to such. a different. nest. So I just moved to a bigger city in South Carolina. When that lease was up, and my own roommate was moving to California, I told myself to save up for a few months and make my way there.
My best financial option that came up in the next few years was to move back to the town where I went to college and wait it out there until I’d saved up to move. I told myself I’d save and the Next Move I Made would be to LA.
I didn’t and it wasn’t.
At this point, I need the fifth time to be the charm. I’m living somewhere I’m not paying rent; I have every opportunity to save, find a job, save some more, and make my way out west.
I hope the regrets I’ve had this year (and the past four years with this honorable mention) will push me to turn this regret into an experience.
I know the regrets I’ve had this year (and the past four years with this honorable mention) will push me to turn this regret into an experience.