The other night, my husband asked me, “If you could choose one moment in your life to live over again, what would it be?”
As one scenario after another flooded my mind, I decided further clarification was in order. So, I countered with, “Do you mean ‘relive’ as in it was so awesome I want to experience it again? Or as in, ‘Man, I screwed that up, and I wish I could go back and fix it?’”
He smiled and said, “Which one did you jump to first?”
And my response surprised me.
My first inclination was to try to think of a moment I’d want to live over again because it was so wonderful. But then I figured it would be much more productive to go back and repair some atrocious blunder that should have earned me a Darwin Award.
But in spite of the fact that I had zero difficulty conjuring up a virtual encyclopedia of ridiculous things I’ve said and done in my life, I realized something pretty cool.
I really don’t have any serious regrets.
Because if I had gotten a do-over every time I thought I needed one, I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today.
When I was 20 years old, I was two years into college, burnt out and dying for a break. Two of my girlfriends were newly minted flight attendants and having a blast jetting from New York to Paris, with a few other glamorous locales thrown in for good measure. (This was back when flying was pretty much an airborne cocktail party, not a TSA-driven nightmare.)
So, I applied to American Airlines and got called for a group interview right away. And when I got the notice that I was hired not long after that, I was ecstatic.
And then I was flat-out terrified.
I’ll probably have to move. They could base me anywhere. And I’ve never lived outside of Southern California in my entire life! Holy sh*t. Maybe I’m not ready for this. Maybe I should go back to school. Maybe I should just get an office job. Maybe…
In the midst of my mental maelstrom, I called my mother. I figured she would be happy that I was leaning heavily toward sticking close to the home front.
But she was actually upset with me. I remember her telling me that I lived in a “vacuum.”
She said I needed to leave my cloistered existence in suburban Orange County and see how the rest of the world existed without mega malls and perfectly manicured planned communities.
A part of me knew that she was right. And I had to admit that I had a Kung Fu death grip on my comfort zone.
But there was another part of me that knew that I was more in love with the idea of fleeing the rigors of higher education than forging a lasting career flying the friendly skies. And if I didn’t finish my degree then, I probably never would.
So, back to Cal State Fullerton I went.
And I did continue living in my “vacuum” for several more years while I completed school. But while I may have lost out on a well-stamped passport and Parisian shopping sprees, I would have missed so much more if I’d have chosen that path.
I wouldn’t have taken my first screenwriting class in my junior year of college and fallen in love with filmmaking.
I wouldn’t have stayed in California long enough to take a decidedly unglamorous purchasing job at a manufacturing company where I met my future husband.
If he hadn’t lost his job and accepted a new one in Arizona, this born-and-raised beach girl would’ve never realized how much she could love the desert.
I wouldn’t have had the chance to realize that the phrase “bloom where you’re planted” was more than just a refrigerator magnet.
There’s nothing wrong with remembering happy times, or rolling your eyes at some of your less-than-stellar performances.
But treat these moments like a rest stop. They’re just a short respite on a long and important journey.
You’ve got so much ground to cover going forward. Whatever happened before – amazing or awful – is done.
Don’t let yourself get stuck playing it again.