Sometimes in life, you find something that inspires you and causes you to pursue it with wild abandon as a driving direction in your life. Not just a passing whim that somehow catches your attention, but something that alights like fire in your heart. Now THOSE are moments I think everyone seeks out and they are difficult to find. Obviously.
For quite some time, I had something like that. When I was in high school (maybe around my junior year), I began participating on the mock trial team and I completely caught the bug of wanting to be a lawyer. My focus on this became almost single-minded, especially when I got to college. I worked my tail off for 4 years because higher grades meant opportunities for better law schools. Heck, I skipped a single class in college… and… umm… that was to study for a different class. Not exactly “Rebel Without A Cause” kind of defiance in any way, shape or form.
I then got to law school and sought to apply myself with a great deal of rigor there as well. Now, let me be clear on something… law school is hard. I don’t care which school it is, if you went through or are going through that special kind of Hell, I tip my hat to you. It’s an experience that’s difficult to describe to those who have not gone through it. Suffice it to say, no one really enjoys law school… except for a few people. And they scared me.
I got out of law school… got myself a nice shiny associate job with a law firm… and quickly realized, the life of a lawyer really wasn’t for me. At all.
That’s quite an epiphany to experience at age 25 when you’ve spent the last 9 or so years (more than 1/3 of my life at that point) going full-bore at becoming an attorney. I can’t lie – it rattled me. How could it not? I mean… what in the world would I do now?
But the funny thing about all of it… at the moment of clarity I had those close to 15 years ago (holy crap… 15 years?!?!?!?) through all the years that followed thereafter… I never regretted my decision to pursue being an attorney. Really.
Is it because I’ve mastered some secret Zen technique that allows me to redirect all of life’s disappointments in a form of mental aikido? Not really. In fact, I wouldn’t even say I am all that special in this regard.
It just came down to 2 important facts I’ve always believed in my heart of hearts:
1) Everything that has happened before in my life has brought me to where I am today and caused me to be who I am today. And I like who I am… so why would I regret that?
2) I have absolutely zero ability to change or affect any event that has happened in the past… so what good is beating myself up over it endlessly? Should I learn from it? Hell yes, but beyond the learning and seeking to do better going forward, there is nothing to be gained in dwelling on missed opportunities or decisions that went an unexpectedly negative way.
I think the other major gripe I have with regret is often works from an assumption that whatever was “missed” before can never be obtained again. I don’t buy that for a second. Yes, if you always had a crush on Mary-Jo Hooper, never asked her out and she is now happily married with 3 kids, that ship has sailed my delinquent Romeo.
But many other things? They aren’t necessarily closed off… it just depends on how bad you want it. People go back to school and change careers and start new businesses. New habits are formed and old ones broken. The fact you are now 40 as opposed to 20 should not mean all is lost IF (and this is a critically big if) whatever you missed before has remained hugely important to you since.
Just don’t be the guy or gal who is always looking back to the days gone by and chances that appear to be nothing but cloudy memories. Be proud of who you are now and what you have… and if you aren’t? What’s really stopping you from making yourself anew?