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Archive for November 1st, 2014

The road to happiness

“Regrets, I’ve had a few…but then again, too few to mention.”

The words of Sinatra’s I did it my way make for a great song. It also conjures up the image…to me anyway…of someone who may be dying and looking back on his or her life. I’ve often heard that when people are finally close to kicking the bucket, so to speak, that their regrets concern things they did not do rather than those they did, and which might very well be regretted.

Hopefully, I’m not about to shuffle off this mortal coil, but there are things that I know now I will never do…for one reason or another, and I regret not being able to do them. Therefore, I pose the question to you…what are the things you would like to see, do, taste, experience, etc., before you reach the age when you are either physically or financially unable to achieve them.

My son has traveled the world because of his job as a swimming coach. He has also seen most of America for the very same reason. His favorite city in the world is Florence, Italy because of its many and varied museums. I would love to have seen Florence. His least favorite spot is Beijing, and I would have to agree that it would not make my top one million lists of places to visit; ex-smokers and that degree of pollution don’t make a very good combination. Does this mean that I would like to have traveled more, taken cruises here and there – not on Carnival, of course – and become absorbed in different cultures? No, not really, partially because I’m too parochial, and not having seen all of my own country, I always figured that should be first.

One of the things I already regret and will carry to my grave is not taking my education more seriously. From the very first grade through the final thesis for my master’s degree, I don’t believe I gave it my best effort. Looking back, I know that I should have been more serious. Did my actions have a serious effect on my life? Yes, probably, but I cannot pinpoint what those effects are or how they hindered me.

I regret not learning a second language. Oh sure, I can greet and ask simple questions or thank someone in several languages, but to carry on a conversation with someone in Prague, Berlin, Paris, or Tokyo, would be impossible, and I really would like to have been able to do that. The problem with learning a language, as you probably already know, is that if you don’t use it on a consistent basis, you will lose your ability.

Depending on who you are, your ability to do what you wish to do, you shouldn’t wait to make your list of things you want to do before you die. Don’t call it a bucket list. Think of it more as something that will round you out as a person. Would you, for example, like to visit Gettysburg and read a copy of Lincoln’s address and feel what he felt or feel the hell that was committed on that site over a three-day period? Would you like to read Gone With The Wind all the way through in one sitting and picture yourself as one of the characters? Would you like to seek out someone you remember offending several years ago and offer that person and apology? As we age, we think of these things we would like to do before we die, knowing full well that we probably won’t get to do them. For example, my legs and back are shot to hell and yet, I long to feel the waves of the ocean slapping against me one more time. My infirmities won’t allow me to walk as far as I would have to to reach the ocean. No sympathy, please; I’m the idiot who screwed up my body. Now I have to pay the piper.

So many people I have known have said, “I can’t do things now because of my job. I have a whole list of things I want to do and see and this and that when I retire,” and then they die never having done them. Yes, work is a necessity, but in most American industries, there is a thing called vacation. Do something other than the same old, same old. And don’t work until you’re too old to do the things you enjoy. “Oh, that’s all well and good for you to say, Bishop. You must be rich.” Baloney, I’m at the lower end of the middle class. The key for me is that I enjoy things that don’t really cost a great deal. Would I like to go on one of those river cruises we see advertised on TV? Damned right I would, but it’s too late for me. If you want the same thing, don’t wait until it’s too late. Want to skydive? I wanted that for years, but I respected my wife’s wishes that I not do so. After she passed – and don’t give me that George Bush bullshit – I just felt that my back and legs wouldn’t take it.

So I challenge you, fair reader; I challenge you to make a list of the things that you don’t want to regret not doing as you’re drawing your final breaths. Want to write the Great American Novel? Start thinking about your subject now! Want to travel this country or some other? Plan now how you will be able to do that. Please don’t wait. We don’t know what’s around the next corner. Just think…think about the regrets you don’t wish to have and make things happen. While the road to hell may be paved with good intentions; the road to happiness is having no regrets. Good luck.

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