Monday, August 20, 2007

Regretting the regrets

At age 26, a few months after my mother died of cancer, I found a lump in my breast. And in the three days between that and my GP's reassurance that the lump was benign, I did a lot of thinking. The result was that I made up my mind to do three things - and no, I'm not going to tell you what they were, but the most innocent was to move to London, which I did a short while later.

The lesson I learned in those three thoughtful days was that I rarely regret what I have done, but I often regret what I haven't done. And it seems I'm not alone. A recent survey, albeit not a scientifically researched one, suggests that we all have something we regret - and many of those regrets are about not doing things. We wish we'd saved more, we wish we'd travelled more, we wish we'd gone into a different career...

No, of course sometimes we simply don't have the strength or the skill; I will never climb Everest or play solo piano with the London Philharmonic. (Though I have three times fulfilled my dream of dancing on the West End Stage - through sweat and tears, not through talent.)

But sometimes we say no to things not because we can't, but because we believe we can't, or shouldn't, or mustn't. My postbag is littered with such beliefs, with readers telling me that they are "too old" for A, "too fat" for B, or that C would disapprove if they dared to do D.

So while I don't wish to go all happy-clappy in this blog, I do want to reaffirm my own resolution - and call on you to reaffirm yours - to take note when you want something and to do it if you possibly can.

In short I wouldn't want to be either Edith Piaf or Frank Sinatra. But if I had to choose between their respective anthems, I'd rather bypass "Regrets, I've had a few..." and sign up to "Je ne regrette rien".

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