I woke up this morning to a birthday doodle from Google and an offer for a complete gold panning kit from Woot! and it got me thinking about choices and regrets. Which led me to Robert Frost:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
As I was thinking about the sigh, I found two sentences from Gail Sheehy that tore at my heart. "A wind of emptiness seemed to blow through me. I began crying softly for what it was too late to have."
Sometimes, I wonder about the road not taken. I stop for a moment and imagine what my life would be if I'd taken the other path. I feel regret and sometimes an overwhelming sadness. I focus only on what I may have missed. I feel the void - as real as if that which I did not choose had been torn away from me.
I sit with the feeling for a while. I allow it to wash over me. And then I imagine what lay down that other road. Who would I have been? How would I feel? What did I miss? Lately, I find - to my great surprise - that I can no longer imagine myself happy and fulfilled in those other existences. I go through my closet of choices. I try on roles not chosen and find they no longer fit. I can't imagine myself as a mother of young children living in a lovely suburban community. The thought of teaching in an urban high school fills me with dread. Being a leader in an organization holds no charm - nor does an acting career.
No, I don't truly regret the choices I've made. I admire friends who made those choices and enjoy skittering around the edges of their lives. I'm realizing that many roads lead to the same place. As much of my family is family of choice as blood relations. It's a large, diverse family spread across the world. My teaching choices gave me great satisfaction and honored my fear of high school boys, all of whom tend to be both boisterous and tall. My nurturing needs have been fulfilled with other people's children and in my professional life. I've headed an organization just long enough to discover that I don't like it very much. Acting? I've always said that training is acting with bad material.
Sometimes, sitting with regret can be a wonderful thing. As I explored, the regrets faded away. I like the choices I've made. There will always be other roads, and there will aways be choices. Today, I choose to celebrate and I choose not to pan for gold. What will you choose?