Oui, je regrette beaucoup

Getting married — at any age I expect, but especially for the first time after fifty — causes massive rushes of retrospection. I’ve come to believe that anyone who says they have no regrets about anything in their life fell off a different turnip truck than I did.

As I sift through the karmically connected collection of life-altering choices I’ve made in my half century, I find a few that stand out as monumentally bad… the ones for which I would mortgage my soul for a Mulligan, even knowing a do-over would change the trajectory of the rest of my life.

Here are the Top 6 things I would do differently:

6. Keep up with my French and my piano.

I was fluent in both and lost them to neglect, which would not have happened if I had been smart enough to…

5. Follow my mother’s advice to pursue her social relationships.

I’d have spent my junior year abroad with my godfather, the President of France. I was an anti-snob as a young person, and cut off my nose to spite my face, but I’d have been more likely to do the whole France thing if I’d been allowed to…

4. Pick my own college and graduate.

I wanted to go to Chapel Hill or Georgetown, but my parents (educated Buckley conservatives) said those were “hotbeds of Communism,” so I landed at UGA. I lasted three beer-soaked semesters. I later went to Columbia in NYC, which was great, but it was too late to fundamentally shape me. Had I gone to one of my picks, I probably would have wound up at Yale for an advanced degree, in which case I would surely have found a way to…

3. Have a child.

Between being gay and being adopted (with an innate aversion to anonymous IVF), plus being step-parent to a teenager in my twenties, and later too poor to afford adoption, I could never figure out how to make my fondest dream come true. A better education would also have ensured that I would never have been in that $19,000/year clerical job in the first place, so I wouldn’t have had to learn the hard way…

2. Don’t put a job above family matters.

My boss told me to get back to NYC the week after my mother’s funeral or lose my job. By going back to the job and leaving the remaining affairs to a trustee, I lost, at 25, much more than money. I lost decades with my brother and continuing connection to my past, which may never have broken if I had known to…

1. Never keep a journal.

My mother found it and read my rant when I was especially mad about her not telling me who my birth parents were (turns out she really didn’t know), and it broke her heart. It broke my heart that I broke her heart. She died six months later.

If I could change just one thing, I would take that journal back.

What would you change?

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  1. #1 by Louise on April 29, 2012 - 10:51 am

    Nerves before the wedding are a good sign, in my opinion! I found the perfect man for me, who possessed all of the attributes that I wanted in a husband. But, the night before the wedding I realized what a huge step I was taking. If you have this rush of retrospection it just shows you’re aware of the importance of the marriage and the huge committment you’re making to your chosen one. You must trust your own judgement, and tell yourself that you used all of your experiences and intellect and chose this person as the one you have been looking for all along! It’s never a 50/50 partnership. Somedays you have to give more than 50% and some days you need your partner to give more. But, it’s great to be a couple with the one you love and respect more than any other. I send you both love and good wishes for a long and happy marriage knowing there will be good days and bad days. But then that’s true of everyone’s life!

  2. #2 by Mary lee, Jakarta, Indonesia on April 29, 2012 - 11:12 am

    I needed to read this now, Alice. Thank you for bravely writing with conviction and honesty.
    We all have regrets. It’s a sign of a life well lived. Not a safe life, but a winding road life. Super highways are a faster and maybe safer way to travel, but you’re different than that…you want to live with gusto, squeezing everything out of everything you can. And that means regrets and winding roads.
    And roads that lead to marriage. Yay!
    All the best. You are a good person and deserve to be happy.

    • #3 by Alice Melott on April 29, 2012 - 12:07 pm

      I continue to be so happy for you, too, Mary Lee. Someday I’m still hoping you’ll come back to the States by way of Atlanta and we can commiserate on it all over a glass of wine. Hugs.

  3. #4 by Melissa on April 29, 2012 - 12:18 pm

    Journaling is a poor person’s access to therapy. That being said, I’ve lost the box where mine are stored. Yikes. They need to be burned. I’d like to apologize now to whoever finds this box first.

  4. #5 by Kim Mytelka on April 29, 2012 - 1:13 pm

    Alice, there is no one I know that deserves the happiness and contentment that your impending marriage will bring. (And just like Louise said, it does take work and it is not a 50/50 relationship all the time, but if you accept the give and take of your relationship you will be happier from the get-go.) I feel silly trying to give you advice. Just know that I am so happy for you and Jody. I am so glad that you found each other and found a way to make a home for yourselves with each other.

    Forgive yourself for your journal and for the hurt it may have caused your mother. She loved you – all of you – all of your thoughts and feelings. I know she understood the feelings you had at that time. She may have felt hurt that you, at that time, felt a need for more. But I know she understood. This is a regret that I know (I really know) she would not want you to carry with you. Forgive yourself for this one regret.

    • #6 by Alice Melott on April 29, 2012 - 1:15 pm

      Thank you, my friend. I know she knows. Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t change it if I could, though.

      Now if I could just go back to Yale Drama School! ;c)

  5. #7 by Vicky Gerdes on April 29, 2012 - 3:12 pm

    Regrets? Oh, yes, but it is about being ashamed of the person that made those decisions. Those decisions made me into the person I am today. Maybe I am more aware, open minded, less biased because of my past. That may not be all bad. I can’t change the past, but I can and have tried to live the future to try to make up for my errors in judgement and action and to try to take advantage of the opportunities that are afforded me now.

  6. #8 by Alexa on April 29, 2012 - 7:07 pm

    We all look back on things we have done and wish we had done them differently. There are very few “do overs” in this world, so we have to learn from our faux pas moments and try to impart that wisdom to the next generation (if they will only listen!). Gives credence to the old adage…”Too soon old, too late smart!” At my age, I am REALLY smart but happy with the wisdom gained.

  7. #9 by Paul on April 29, 2012 - 7:18 pm

    I’m good! Congratulations!

  8. #10 by Kimberly Shinn-Brown on April 29, 2012 - 11:27 pm

    Oh, for a few do-overs. One thing I don’t regret is parenting — even though we’re a little long in the tooth! Alice, maybe it’s not too late to parent. We just finished our foster parent license and are waiting for the call. Lord knows there are lots and lots of children who need loving guidance, even if it’s for a short time while their parents “get it together.” You’ve got a lot to offer! Much love~

    • #11 by Alice Melott on April 30, 2012 - 7:13 am

      That’s great to hear, Kim — and I have given that some thought. It will have to wait until we’re a bit better settled (and Jody is placed), but it’s a definite maybe. Can’t wait to hear all about your experiences!

  9. #12 by Jack Hawley on April 30, 2012 - 8:52 pm

    I just tumbled onto this blog and I already think you are great! I am a single dad to 4 adopted kids and when my marriage went south a couple years back the kids and I all came to live here in Galveston :)
    I guess that makes us IBC!
    Parenting is the best thing I ever said yes to!

    Southern Californian transplant-Houston refugee-Galveston local.

    • #13 by Alice Melott on April 30, 2012 - 10:08 pm

      Thanks, Jack! There are many essays here about Galveston, especially in the first year following Ike. Please share your thoughts on them.

  10. #14 by Michelle on May 1, 2012 - 7:15 am

    I regret not getting a double major when i went to college – if i actually liked the college i went to i would have gotten a bachelor’s of science in business and psychology.

  11. #15 by adauphin04 on May 8, 2012 - 11:16 am

    I would have gone to college right out of high school instead of trying to find myself. Though I have found me, I know I’d be further along my own path if I had done that.

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