Sunday, August 21, 2011

Maybe My Biggest Regret

I can't imagine there are many subjects in this world that Lucille Ball and Metallica front-man James Hetfield agreed upon, but their takes on Regret remain strikingly similar.
 
Lucille Ball during the
Vitameatavegamin skit.
"I'd rather regret the things I've done than regret the things I haven't done." -Lucille Ball

"I'd rather regret doing something than not doing something." -James Hetfield

James Hetfield, Metallica guitarist
and lead vocalist.
 I'm sure that if I continued to comb the Internet, I could finds hundreds of additional quotes that speak to the same sentiment. The idea that inaction would be the greatest cause of regret seems to stand out as the unifying theme on the matter.

 Babe Ruth (left)
with Ty Cobb (right)
Ty Cobb, regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, has an interesting regret. He said: "I regret to this day that I never went to college. I feel I should have been a doctor." Considering the man is widely credited with setting at least 90 Major League Baseball records during his playing career, some of which he still holds to this season, I can't imagine that the sport of baseball or the storied Detroit Tigers franchise would have been the same without the surly, tempermental Ty.

I write all this because yesterday, I spent the afternoon with much of my family at a farewell barbecue for my cousin, Carlos, who is off (sadly, with all of his barbecue and meat-smoking prowess) to Loyola University in New Orleans. This was the same day my youngest brother, Nick, returned to Tampa for his senior year at the University of South Florida. So, what is perhaps the biggest regret of my life? As I'm sure you've guessed by now: Not going away for college.

Dude...
As I sit here pounding away on the keyboard, there isn't a single moment of my life I would change. I love how my life has progressed and continues to unfold. Do I wish things were different from time to time? Of course. Who doesn't? But if given the opportunity to time travel and change my past so that I did go to some far-off campus, I wouldn't do it (even if said travel takes place in a Delorean...although that would be incredibly tempting...). Time Travel has been a staple of the science fiction genre since H.G. Wells. Hollywood has cranked out some spectacular films on the subject, like The Terminator (1984), Back to the Future (1985), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), and even the classics, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991). [Aside: Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey might very well have the greatest tag-line of all-time: "Hell Hath No Pizza."] But it all those films and the many like them, things turn out the way they should.

Over the last several years, though, a pang of regret has resonated within me from time to time. The loudest gongs came during field trips I chaperoned to New York City and a Writer's Conference being held at Columbia University. Strolling the beautiful campus of that decorated Ivy League school, that oasis of knowledge nestled between the spires of Harlem, I wished so much to have been enrolled there. To be in my late-teens/early-twenties in New York, living, learning, would have been something to shape me in such a different fashion. I urged the high school seniors I was with to take their chances and try to leave Miami for college. I vividly remember visiting Princeton in New Jersey with my family, and even touring the campuses of Stetson and UCF with friends as a senior in high school. The opportunity was there, but I left it on the table. I chose to stay home and attend FIU. I can point to the circumstances; the uncertainty of living alone with diabetes; the would-be distance of the familial safety net; the lack of a basketball coach who pushed his players to perform at the next level. All of these things can help justify the choice, but that would be a cop-out. It comes down to cowardice. I was too scared to go.

Now, I say all this not because I'm necessarily jealous of my cousin or my brother. I say this because I am proud of them. They were able to make the decision I was unwilling to make. I had the opportunity, like so many others, but I didn't take it. I could have played basketball in college, but I was too afraid to step out of my proverbial comfort-zone. (Something, I find, that I still do to this day.) I felt that pang of regret again yesterday, wishing my cousin luck before he embarked on his journey. I know Carlos will do well in New Orleans, and not only in school or on the track field, but in life as well. He, like my brother Nick in Tampa, has a good head on his shoulders, confidence, and a superb support group back home.

I understand what Lucille Ball and James Hetfield meant when discussing regret. Like Ty Cobb said he regrets not going to college and becoming a doctor, I regret not leaving for college. But just like Ty Cobb was supposed to be one of the greatest baseball players of all-time and wouldn't have been had he gone to college, I'm right where I'm supposed to be, and I like that.

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