The daughter of a close friend just graduated from college. The economy as it is, she has yet to find a job. Amidst her fervent search, she's pursuing the next most logical plan of action for a 21-year-old: She's taking a road trip to Florida with friends.
"Good for her!" I responded with much enthusiasm.
My friend eyed me with a half-smile. "Well, I figured you'd say that."
(With Yoda-like philosophy, I briefly pondered the implication of her remark. Irresponsible, am I? Exceedingly hedonistic, perhaps? I finally settled on "spirited," using the spin my optimistic mother always did in describing my sisters and me in the most wayward periods of our lives.)
"OK, still. I know she can't really afford it. Yes, she needs a job. True, all that," I said. "But remember the trip you and I planned for our summer after college graduation? When we were going to go hosteling through Europe for a month? Remember?"
She nodded slowly, and we were silent for a moment, save a soft sigh that escaped from each of us.
The Europe trip never happened, of course. We'd talked about it, daydreamed a lot, did a bit of research. But in the end, we simply persisted in our job searches and found permanent employment. We began careers, married, had children. We did all the right things. All the things that were expected of us as respectable young adults. (We did a few less respectable things too. Another blog topic perhaps, for another day.)
I can't remake the decision I made--or more accurately, didn't make--that summer after college graduation. And given a month of freedom now, I wouldn't choose to spend it sleeping in a room with strangers, worrying about the multi-legged creatures who might also be sharing our space. I travel these days with a mega suitcase filled with several pairs of clean underwear and an assortment of shoes.
I have few true regrets in my life. I believe regrets usually serve a purpose only when you have the ability to resurrect, recapture and redo a decision you once made and would now make differently.
I don't regret where I am in my life. But if I were 21 again, I might choose differently where I was going.
And I'd go there with just a few dollars tucked into a pack on my back, and wearing an old, worn pair of sandals.