In my last blog entry, I mentioned the summer hosteling trip through Europe that a friend and I had planned after our college graduations. We figured some savings from our fast-food jobs, a railpass and a backpack were all we needed for a month of freedom exploring another continent.
Instead, that plan of yesteryear was wiped away when reality and practicality stepped in. I accepted a full-time job as a newspaper reporter, took on an apartment lease, and entered the lifelong world of Responsible, Tax-Paying Adults.
I hesitate on referring to that discarded plan as a "regret" (a term I prefer to reserve for minute mistakes such as being overserved at the bar). Still. Backpacking through Europe? Coulda, woulda, shoulda.
If I could travel back in time, I'd tell my 21-year-old self to take the trip. Put off responsibility for one more month. Forgo making commitments that, once made, can't be broken, however temporarily.
My 21-year-old self might not have listened, especially to a now middle-aged woman. (Do they ever?) But the fact is, I've learned one or ten things through the years, which I would pass along as advice to the younger me:
- Pursue your dreams now. They get only more elusive as you get older.
- Be a good friend even to those who've become distant. The distanced ones may need you the most.
- Don't be so anxious for that first credit card. It will buy you everything but freedom.
- Hang onto how it feels to be young. Your future children will thank you.
- Don't let the gas tank get too low. Trust me on this.
- Spend more time with your parents. They will not live forever.
- Bet heavily on Mine that Bird in the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
- Marry if you love him, but don't expect love to conquer all.
- Don't buy those huge, round-rimmed eyeglass frames, even if the optician tells you they look great on you. Just don't.
- Don't second-guess bad decisions unless you can change them. Avoid regrets. Focus on repairs.
Until future technology finds a way for us to travel back in time, I can't offer any of this advice to the young woman I once was. The best I can do now is offer up a list of suggestions for my own two children, who are now both young adults themselves.
They'll make their own decisions, good or bad, for certain. But when they look back on those decisions, far in the future, I hope the term "regret" has become obsolete. And the need to "repair," at the least, a rarity.