If you had asked me five years ago, possibly even a couple of years ago, if I had any regrets, I would have said no. And I meant it. I really did. Not in a haughty, conceited, or superior kind of way but in a comfortable with myself, realistic about my past limitations kind of way. And I was really proud of myself for loving myself so much that I could forgive myself for making bad choices, knowing that I was doing the best that I could do at the time.
At the same time, I would have extended that self love out to you, as you told me a story about some terrible choice you had made and now regretted. “Forgive yourself,” I would have said, “and move forward. You can’t go back. You did the best that you could. You’re a different person now.”
Of course, I might still say those same words to you now. But with a different outlook.
Recently, I realized that I do regret some of my choices. The very idea sort of threw me. Why was I suddenly changing my mind about this? I thought I was so comfortable with myself and forgiving and loving to me. And I am. But, the more I love myself, the more I realize I should have loved myself more in the past and made choices that reflected that.
Instead, I made a lot of choices to please other people. I martyred myself, too. I decided that if someone had to be unhappy, I’d take the hit. I’ll take one for the team. Let them all be happy, I can suffer for their sake. What a bunch of shit. Because what I realize now is that if I had thought about myself a little more, I’d be in a better place now. Instead, I’m in my mid 40’s and just now beginning to take steps toward the life I want.
And making a choice for myself would have meant a better, more authentic relationship with me and everyone in my life. The great part about allowing myself to regret some things is that I’m now finding out who I really am and letting her out to live and create my life. A life that I feel comfortable in. A life where I care less and less if the world approves.
Discovering this new freedom has also affected me spiritually. As I learn and grow and study life and metaphysical and spiritual ideas, I expect to change as I go and apply what I learn. But, the idea of having no regrets was, to me, the representation of self-forgiveness and letting go, moving forward, self love. So, to change my mind about it was huge. I wasn’t expecting it. And it brought up a few other things for me as well.
For instance, regret doesn’t mean that I don’t love or forgive myself. It just means that I’m acknowledging the fact that I would have, could have loved myself better. It acknowledges that I love myself enough now to try and choose me because I matter. Maybe that’s what this really is- me discovering that I matter.
It sounds so obvious, right? So simple. But, as I’m sure many women reading this will agree, we aren’t taught to do things for ourselves. We’re taught to serve others. Especially men (sorry guys). And if we do something that’s unpopular because we feel like it, especially something that isn’t “normal”, then we’re selfish. How dare we do something that isn’t going to ensure our normal career, home with mortgage, 2.5 kids, American Dream? Right?
And if you think that I’m being nutty about this, think back a few years ago (ten maybe?) to when Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love became a bestseller. A lot of women (and men) connected with her story. And I remember very clearly hearing a lot of people (women and men) criticizing her for being “selfish”. Selfish for cancelling her wedding at the last minute. Selfish for taking a trip to find herself, and God forbid, enjoy herself. Because doing something like that isn’t okay for her if I can’t do it, is what I feel they are saying. She had the guts to live her life with passion and joy and without a man in the center of it and she was called selfish. That is sad, people.
Criticism seems to happen no matter what you do, I’ve found, so why not just do what makes you happy anyway? I’m hearing this theme more and more these days and it gives me hope. I see a lot of young people making choices that aren’t mainstream and I’m cheering them on. A world where individuals can choose a path that inspires them is where I want to live. Think of the inventors and artists and musicians and innovators who would come out of the woodwork and have a voice if we stopped, as a society, telling people who to be?
Yes, I’m an idealist. A dreamer. So what? We all should be. I feel like the people who are against free spirits are just afraid. Probably to make changes in their own lives or that their lives won’t mean anything if the old structure disappears. And of course, there are those who say, “Who’s going to take out the garbage? Or work in the fast food restaurants? Or do the jobs no one else wants to?” First of all, we should nominate you, dear hater, to take a turn first. Ha ha.
The truth is, we have the ability now to change those systems to make them better. And those people following their passions, their dreams? They want to solve problems. They want to make things automated so that we can all chillax and make music and art and hang out. That’s what makes them happy. And there are always people who want to help make it happen. The muscle, if you will. As for fast food, no one should be eating that shit anyway. But, someone down the street from you who loves to cook would probably put some tables in his backyard and cook for anyone who shows up. So, don’t worry haters.
Anyway, all I’m saying is that from now on, I’m trying to choose me. I’m choosing to enjoy my life without guilt. Which is why this week I’m taking about 12 of my 100 hours of vacation that I have accrued. I plan to take some more next week. Because, guess what? I don’t want to regret not taking some time to enjoy life and relax a little.