Last week I was talking to my Mum about any regret’s that she had about her life. It was her birthday and I had gone to see her with my son. We were at the park and she was running around with him chasing a ball.
She made a comment about not believing how old she was (she’s 69) and how quickly the time has gone. Now, I can totally relate to that way of thinking. For instance, I can’t believe its September at the end of next week, can you?
We got on to talking about regret, about the ‘almost did it’s’, and the ‘it could have been so different’s’. Turns out my Mums biggest regret centre around her career choices. Back when she left school she had four options. Become a nurse, a teacher, a secretary, or get married and be a stay at home Mum.
My Mum had never intended on being a Mum, I’m very comfortable with that by the way, I can understand her perspective. She had a dream to travel the world, and wanted to link her work to that. So she went to secretarial school and then told her parents that she had a job opportunity in the middle east for an oil company. They told her she couldn’t go. That she should stay at home, where it was safe. And so, she didn’t go, and very soon afterwards she got engaged and then married. Hence my presence on this earth.
Listening to her I could see the sadness etched across her face, but the real pain was in the fact that being a secretary wasn’t her first choice. She had wanted to be a teacher. But hadn’t pursued that avenue because she felt she wasn’t clever enough. I know she would have been a brilliant teacher, and funnily enough, she does now too. But at 69 its very unlikely that she would be able to go back into the world of work, especially in a completely new profession. She missed her boat, and thats it. It is something that she is still trying to come to terms with.
That “not enough” mindset is something that has hindered her ever since. She’s never felt pretty enough, slim enough, good enough. Funny thing is, if she saw herself through my eyes, she would walk taller than anyone, and she would feel empowered to go for what she wants.
Its a terrible thing to have a life of regret, and yet it happens to us in our thousands. That thing we never said because we might upset someone. That relationship we never left, or never started because the risk of getting hurt was too great. That career that we turned away from because we believed we weren’t enough. All stories we tell to keep ourselves safe, when in fact we are keeping ourselves from what we really want.
I regret taking so long to get to the point where I had the clarity, determination and focus to change my career. I could have been doing this brilliant work a long long time ago. I am determined to live a life of minimal regret now.
It takes courage to be the one to say “I’m done” when nobody else gets it. It takes courage to decide that the life you are living isn’t the right life for you. It takes courage to make a big leap after a long time in one place. But, I for one would rather take that leap, than wake up at 69 with those big regrets. How about you?