Without Regret

“I do not regret the things I did…

…only those I did not do.”
That’s a line from a movie I grew up with, called Empire Records.  Within reason, I agree with that statement.

I recently discovered this other quote, from Mark Twain, which I’m sure inspired the line for Empire Records:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
I’ve always tried to live my life this way, by going after the things I’ve wanted, by trying to be unsafe and leaving the land of comfortable.  I recall reading a book called Sophie’s World years ago.  It’s a philosophical book about a young girl who goes on a journey of understanding after receiving a cryptic message that asks, “Who are You?

There’s one section in particular that I’ll always remember, which describes the world as being on the back of a giant rabbit.  In this world, there are two types of people:  those who are perfectly comfortable and content with being at the base of the rabbit’s fur, never to climb to the top, and those that actually break away from their everyday lives to peak out from the top of the fur so they can look at the breadth of what the world has to offer.

Which type are you?

In college, I took an acting class as a way of knocking out some extracurricular credit, never thinking I would actually…you know…act.  In fact, I was terrified of being put up in front of other people.  To perform.  Be funny.  Be emotional.

It wasn’t easy for me.

Nevertheless, I was forced to act in short scenes, adlibs, and eventually I starred in a couple of plays.  Trust me, it never got any easier, but I fought through the intense, sickening, fear, and I went after it every time.  I even pursued acting for a short time and ended up traveling across half the country with a small theater troupe for a year. After all of that, though, I realized acting wasn’t for me, but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.  If I hadn’t pursued acting, I would have missed out on a lot of life-changing stuff.

I remember when I was about 16, I had such a crush on a girl we’ll call “Lisa.”  Lisa was that girl that every guy had a crush on. She was that gorgeous girl next door; quiet and demure with big, expressive eyes and a smile that melted your heart from across a crowded room.  If I ever had the luck to lock eyes with her, she made me feel like I was the only person in the whole, wide world.  At 16, that was love.

I didn’t know her and I was too scared to just walk up to her at the time.  Not one to give up on something, I used the gift that I was bestowed with–a natural knack for writing.  I laugh about it now, but I actually wrote a love letter of sorts, bought a long-stemmed red rose, discovered where her first class was, and left it for her to discover.

Lisa was so moved by my gift and letter that we exchanged numbers…we talked a few times, found that we didn’t have much in common and parted ways.  At the time, I felt that it was a big letdown, a big waste, but now I realize that it was just a step toward further understanding of who I am, how I’m supposed to love, and in small way, parted the way to my one and only wife–the love of my life.

And now, today, I’m going after my dream of being a published author.

I was scared to self-publish.  I thought it was admitting defeat, but the more I researched it, the more sense it made to try it out.  Believe me, the day I pressed “publish” through Smashwords, then Barnes & Noble, and finally Amazon, I had knots in my stomach.  And knots on top of those knots.  I think there may still be residual knots left behind…

But I had to decide…did I want to wait forever for the approval of the Big Publishers and perhaps never break through that impossible iron curtain around the Publishing industry?  Or did I want to throw off the shackles of convention and at the very least–even if it’s an utter failure–know that I lived without the regret of not knowing, not doing

Who knows what will happen?  Maybe my little book will just languish in the electronic bowels of the enormous Amazon system of books, to never see the light of massive day…but maybe, just maybe, one person will read it, love it, review it, and tell others about my story of Patrick Patterson.  Then, those other people will read, love it, review it, and tell even other people about Patrick Patterson.  And then, those people will….

Well, you get the point.

Only time will tell, I suppose.

So, the point of what I’m trying to say is to shout “No!” to convention, throw off the shackles of normal, and to “Explore. Dream. Discover.”  You’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than those that you did do.

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